Composting Programs Priority For RI's Central Landfill

Mar 24, 2014

With the shrinking capacity of the Central Landfill, the executive director of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation wants recycling and composting food waste to become a priority, not just for the agency, but for the state.

Executive director Michael O’Connell said there’s no time to waste. The landfill’s gates will close in about 25 years at the current rate we’re sending trash to it. He wants people to feel a sense of urgency about the group effort it’s going to take to increase recycling and composting food waste.

“We hope and our vision is it [composting food waste] will be a statewide priority, which will mean a lot of different constituencies, have to be engaged in it—not just us," said O'Connell last week at a community meeting organized by the Rhode Island Food Policy Council. "It has to be the legislators, the regulators, the public utility companies, processors, the customers who are going to actually deliver the materials to these up and coming digestion facilities... the haulers to be able to haul it. So it’s a wide net of different constituencies that have to be involved in the system to make it work."

O'Connell said it’s difficult to get people excited and engaged about recycling and composting, when 25 years seems so far away. But it’s not, he said. Composting even just a small percentage of food waste would go a long way.

“If we could take about 13% percent or 100,000 tons of food waste out of the landfill, the landfill would then last, instead of 25 years, it would be almost 30 years.”

O’Connell said the agency will soon embark on a long-term study to figure out how much recyclables and food waste end up in the landfill. That will guide what initiatives to adopt to extend the life of the landfill.

In the meantime, other efforts are underway to keep some food waste out of the landfill. For example, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council will soon launch a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pilot program that teaches families how to reduce food waste at home.

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