Bristol falls short of the state's recycling mandate


If you want to increase recycling efforts in Bristol, there needs to be a better marketing effort and educational campaign.

That's according to Keith Maloney, chairman of an 18-person committee created by Bristol Town Council, with the premise of solving the town's lackluster approach to recycling.

In July, Mr. Maloney presented the council with recommendations to improve the town's sub-par efforts, namely revised an ordinance currently on the books, making it mandatory that all businesses and residents recycle.

"It doesn't accomplish what it should, as written," Mr. Maloney said. "Right now there is a test program, and there are 100 businesses participating in this test program, which has them recycling. But in Bristol, there's 600 businesses. That leaves 500 not participating, not recycling."

The reasons for increasing the towns participation are significant, Mr. Maloney said. The town pays for each ton of trash taken to the central landfill, operated by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, at a cost of $32 per ton. In June, the town delivered 729 tons of trash, and 150 tons of recycling to the resource center. The cost per recycling ton is $0.

"That's  roughly $230,000," said Jim Galuska, head of Bristol's Public Works Department. "That's the check that Bristol has to write."

There is also a yearly tonnage limit that Bristol can unload at central landfill - 7,214 tons. Each year, while the town does not exceed that figure, Mr. Galuska said it's getting close.

"What I would like to do is reduce the amount of trash we put out," he said. "By reducing how many tons of trash we put out, that automatically raises the percentage of recycling."

The amount of recycling currently picked up by DPW workers is about average, Galuska said, in perspective to neighboring towns.

"I don't really see it going any higher than that," Mr. Galuska said of the 150 tons of recycling picked up in June.

In order for Bristol to be in compliance with the state, said Councilman Tim Sweeney, Bristol's recycling tonnage needs to increase.

Over the past three years, Bristol has fallen short of the state's mandated 35-percent recycling rate. In 2012, Bristol's percentage was 29.2, higher than the 2011 and 2010 percentages of 23.5, and 23.2, respectively.

"In years where there is a profit made from the sale of recyclables, the resource center shares 50-percent of the profit back with the cities and towns according to how many tons they brought in," said Sarah Kite, director of recycling services at the RI Resource and Recovery Center. "So the more tons Bristol recycles, the greater their share of the profit."

The more Bristol profits, and the less trash tonnage brought to the landfill, equates to a smaller dent to the townsperson's wallet, Mr. Sweeney said.

"Money we receive would help reduce the burden (for items) on the taxpayers," he said.

The other benefit to recycling, Ms. White added, was to prolong the life of the central landfill. It is the only landfill for the State of Rhode Island, and once it's closed, "the cost to dispose municipal waste will skyrocket."

"We're trying to be proactive in our approach," Mr. Maloney said. "People have to learn and understand the value of what they put in their trash bin. The cost of ignoring this issue, and allowing these trash trends to continue, is significant."

Mr. Maloney highlighted festivals such as the Fourth of July festivities, as lost opportunities to recycle because there are no recycling bins placed with trash bins.

"People aren't given that opportunity," he said.

The council's approach to the issue is softer than Mr. Sweeney's initial 'No Bin, No Barrel,' platform, wherein trash would not be collected if there was not a recycling bin next to it.

"That's a drastic way of going about it," Mr. Maloney said. "And I know that neighboring towns have done that, and residents are not happy. So we're going to try this educational approach first."

Council members are expected to create an ad-hoc committee to execute the recommendations offered by Mr. Maloney's group during its Aug. 7 meeting.



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