Efforts To Improve Recycling Rates In Providence Paying Off

Feb 3, 2014

Residents in the city of Providence are recycling more than they were nearly a year ago.

The recycling facility at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
Credit Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

The city delivered small gray trash barrels in the fall of 2012, so that residents could use their green 95-gallon trash bins as recycling bins instead.

The city sent out mailings, recorded phone messages, and launched an advertising campaign to let people know of the switch. But that wasn’t enough.

In some neighborhoods, people were still throwing away their food waste, diapers, and furniture into the green bin. That contaminated recycling loads and re-directed them straight to the landfill.

Sarah Kite is the director of recycling services at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. She says door-to-door outreach improved the recycling rates in some neighborhoods.

“Now, when we had been rejecting perhaps 8 to 10 loads a day from those routes, we are now down to one or two,” said Kite. “So there’s been a great amount of improvement in Providence.”

The city of Providence’s environmental supervisor Leo Perrotta said he doesn’t have the latest recycling rates yet, but last May the city collected 50 tons of recyclables.  Now it’s almost double that.

“It’s been a long road,” said Perrotta, “but it’s encouraging from our end and it should be encouraging from the public’s end, because they end up improving the quality of the neighborhood, it’s cheaper for the city to dispose of recyclables because we do it for free, versus trash we have to pay for.”

In addition to door-to-door education, Perrotta said enforcement and re-enforcement efforts, such as fining offenders and attaching red stickers to poorly used recycling bins, have helped improved recycling.  

There’s still more work to do to improve recycling rates, said Kite. Kite noted the recycling loads from Providence’s Thursday and Friday routes are still going straight to the landfill because they are simply too contaminated. Kite hopes more door-to-door education will pick up again when the weather warms up.