Residents in Burrillville and North Smithfield are participating in a pilot program to test the R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation’s new recycling program and equipment. The trial has allowed the corporation time to work out any difficulties before going online with the rest of the state, which is estimated to take place in mid-June.
“Rhode Island now has the most technologically advanced recycling facility in the country,” said Sarah Kite, director of recycling services for RIRRC. “We wanted the equipment that we installed to get us through the next 15-20 years.”
The corporation is responsible for sorting and processing the state’s recyclables into commodities, the profits of which are annually distributed to its municipalities.
A $16.9 million replacement of RIRRC’s materials-recycling facility completed in April now enables all recyclables to be placed in one recycling bin to be sorted at the Johnston center.
The old plastic-sorting equipment, which was done manually, was replaced, and most of the paper-sorting equipment was refurbished. The automated equipment can process 160,000 tons per year. Currently, 90,000 tons are processed.
Items from newspaper and cardboard, to aluminum and plastic containers will no longer need to be sorted by the consumer. More importantly, however, the new process allows for more plastics to be recycled. Items including wide-mouth jars, plastic, deli-style, take-out containers, plastic egg cartons, and margarine, iced coffee and yogurt cups can now be recycled.
“It’s not a ‘single-stream’ system” said Kite, “residents will still have to separate their trash from recyclables.”
Corporation officials are hopeful that since recycling will become more convenient, it will result in increased participation for industry, commercial properties, condominiums and housing associations and apartments. Towns would save money by paying fewer tipping fees for disposal of less trash. For the state, increased recycling would result in less waste delivered to trash-to-energy facilities or trucked to out-of-state landfills.