Background? “On and off I’ve been a yacht captain, mostly doing deliveries. The last few years I’ve been focusing on food and farming and sustainability issues on the island. I held a food and farming forum in October in 2011 and that led to the forming of Sustainable Aquidneck. We established a community farm out in Middletown and we’re collecting food scraps at the (farmers’) market and composting out at the farm. I also started writing a little bit for EcoRI.”
Recycling pays for his job. “There’s a profit-sharing arrangement that all the towns and cities have with Rhode Island Resource Recovery, a quasi-governmental company that spent $18 million on the (recycling) facility itself — a mechanism developed in the Netherlands to separate a singles stream of recyclables. About half of it goes overseas and about half of it is sold domestically. They split their profits from that with the cities and towns. Since Portsmouth has been doing so well — upper tier statewide, relative to its recycling rates — their profit-sharing check was substantial. They’re mandated to spend that money to boost their recycling rates, (through) education and awareness, to do a better job, which will only mean more profit-sharing for the town.”
How is Portsmouth doing with recycling? “We were a little down this year from the year before, but our rates are pretty steady and in fact we hit an all-time high in September of nearly 40 percent. We’re averaging around 35 (percent), which is the state mandate. Bristol’s at 17, and they just started a sister campaign to mine, if you will. We’re doing a decent job, but there’s a lot more that we can do. On the West Coast there are communities that are up near 70 percent.”
Educational efforts? “We’re about to launch a campaign called Portsmouth Recycles, to raise awareness and boost recycling efforts in Portsmouth. We’re starting with this film, which is the launch event. We’ve got some cards that we made up — the dos and don’ts of recycling. Eventually every resident of Portsmouth will get one of these in the mail, and you can keep it handy on your fridge. It’s basically to encourage people to be diligent, to take the time to meticulous separate out their garbage. That reduces our costs; the more we recycle the more money goes into the recycle profit-sharing, and it reduces the amount of solid waste that we have to pay to take up to Johnston to the landfill.
What do some residents need to know? “People probably don’t realize that they can recycle e-waste, or electronic waste. They can bring their old computers or printers or old televisions to the transfer station; there’s a bin for that. If you’re changing your own (motor) oil, you can bring that to the transfer station and that gets turned into a fuel. For example, in Jamestown they heat one of their shops with recycled motor oil.”
What about plastic? “You can recycle all plastics now. A lot of people may not know that for a while it was only certain numbers; all recyclable plastic has a number on the back inside the recycle symbol. With the investment in the single-stream system, now you can recycle any plastic that has the recycle symbol on the bottom with a number.”
What happens with recycled plastic? “That goes to create those boards which end up in benches, or indestructible docks or decking that will basically last forever. In a way, it’s better than cedar. At the film on Thursday, I’m going to be wearing a Patagonia fleece made from recycled bottles.”
Any changes at the town transfer station? “Not in the near term. Part of my job is to work with the Recycling Committee to look at our long-term relative to the transfer station. There’s no formal commission. The only thing that’s driving that is an aging facility that needs attention, and there are some traffic issues. It’s a significant issue that has to be addressed by the town, but the campaign is merely focused on encouraging residents to do a better job at recycling.”
Landfill’s filling up. “There’s an overarching imperative to reduce our solid waste because the landfill is going to reach capacity probably by 2034. Once that happens, the cost of handling waste is going to skyrocket. The more we think proactively, the lesser the hit will be down the road.”
Film focuses on risks to food chain
The documentary film “Trashed” will be screened for free on Thursday, Nov. 14, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 324 East Main Road. Coffee and snacks from The Green Grocer will be provided during the “community partner chat hour” starting at 6 p.m., with the film starting at 7 p.m. A panel discussion will follow.
In the award-winning film, Jeremy Irons looks at the risks to the food chain and the environment through pollution of the air, land and sea by waste. The film shows how these risks can be averted through sustainable approaches that provide more employment than the current “waste industry.”
The NewportFilm screening is being co-presented by the Aquidneck land Trust and the town’s Recycling Committee with support from The Green Grocer and Clean Ocean Access.
The online RSVPs for the event are closed because the organizers are close to the 300-person capacity. However, beginning at 6 p.m., guests who have not yet RSVP’d may be added to a wait list for seats, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information about the film, visit www.newportfilm.com.
‘Dos and don’ts’ of recycling
Portsmouth Recycle will eventually be sending all residents a handy guide to recycling that they can stick on their fridge. Here’s what you can and cannot recycle:
• Paper: Newspaper, phone books, envelopes, office paper, spiral notebooks, flattened corrugated boxes, wrapping and tissue paper, gift bags, junk mail, egg cartons
• Plastics: Bottles, jars, tubs, take-out containers, iced coffee cups, yogurt containers, plastic egg cartons
• Cartons: Milk, juice, soup, juice boxes
• Metal: Aluminum cans, foil, pie pans, empty aerosol cans, tin cans
• Glass: Jars and bottles
• Plastic bags: Bring them back to the store.
• Refrigerated and frozen food boxes: Butter, pizza, beer, soda, TV dinner boxes
• Plastic containers larger than 2 gallons
• Hybrid packaging: Oatmeal and chip canisters, K-cups
• Greasy pizza boxes: Non-greasy tops are recyclable
• Chip bags and candy wrappers
• Hot beverage cups
• Light bulbs, mirrors, broken glass
Also accepted at the transfer station in separate containers: Books, clothing, scrap metal, e-waste, motor oil, mattresses and yard waste