City recycling pays off with largest municipal payment


Municipalities got some good news in the form of money Monday morning, and some less than good news that the checks from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) are less than what they might have been.

“Today is always a fun day,” RIRRC Executive Director Mike OConnell said to a room filled with elected and appointed city and town officials. And indeed, his audience looked happy at the prospect of receiving the profits from the sale of recyclables collected in their communities.

OConnell said about half of the recyclables are sold to companies in this country while the rest go overseas.

In total, $740,626 was handed out.

He reported the overall volume of recyclables for the year increased by 11 percent, which is split between municipal and commercial recyclables. The volume of municipal recyclables increased from 90,680 tons in fiscal year 2012 to 95,323 tons for the past fiscal year.

The increase in volume was in part attributed to an increase in commercial recyclables and to the agency’s new “single stream” system that separates recyclables at the plant rather than replying heavily on people doing it before reaching the facility. The facility enables RIRRC to increase the volume of recyclables it can process.

“It’s all driven by supply and demand,” OConnell said.

And the demand for recyclables has dropped with the greatest decline coming in newsprint and mixed paper that were down by 31 and 35 percent, respectively. He said the rate of payment per ton has dropped from $21.44 last year to $14.39. The rate going back to cities and towns is $7.77 per ton.

Warwick, which saw a 9.67 percent increase in recycling for the past year, received the largest of the checks handed out Monday – $79,594.13.

Recycling coordinator Christopher Beneduce was present to collect the check.

He attributed the city’s success to a combination of factors. Top on his list is education and a community that practices recycling.

He said RIRRC’s conversion to single source recycling, while met with some confusion and resistance, has also worked to increase the volume of recyclables. As the prior system had residents separating paper and cardboard from glass, plastics and cans, thereby giving residents two carts, now everything can go into either the blue or green cart. The result is that people have more space for the storage of recyclables between weekly collections.

Governor Lincoln Chafee joined municipal leaders for the check presentations. He pointed out the multiple benefits of recycling, noting that for every ton saved from the landfill, municipalities are saving $32 in tipping fees. In addition, he said, that’s one less ton going into the landfill, thereby prolonging the life of the landfill.

Mayor Scott Avedisian wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but he followed up with an e-mail.

“We are very happy to once again have one of the highest recycling rates in the state. It is a testament to the fact that the people of this city genuinely care about their environment and reusing resources. The automated trash pickup system has gone a long way in making recycling efficient, easy and effective. We continue to lead the state in this exciting venture,” he said.

Noting the city’s automated collection system, yard waste recycling and other diversions from the landfill, Avedisian said, “The people of this city have a great record of environmental stewardship.”

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