Caldwell, Valverde Oppose Proposed Medical Waste Facility

by | Feb 9, 2021

Medrecycler-RI wants to open just over the EG line in West Warwick using a technique rare in the U.S.

Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35) and Rep. Justine Caldwell (D-Dist. 30), who both represent East Greenwich, said in a press release last week they “are strongly opposing” Medrecycler-RI, a medical waste recycling facility at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick just over the East Greenwich line.

“This isn’t the clean energy its developer claims it is. This technology is criticized as being inefficient, because it takes so much energy to superheat the waste. But even more critically, it’s unsafe. Pyrolysis is used to burn other types of waste, but medical waste would be a new use,” Valverde said.

The pyrolysis technique was one of the issues discussed at a virtual informational session hosted by the state Dept. of Environmental Management in late January, where the company’s CEO, Nicholas Campanella, and a representative from the company supplying the pyrolysis system fielded questions from the public. Valverde and Caldwell were on that call as well. (You can watch the entire session on the EG News Facebook page HERE; the sound comes on at 4 minutes in!)

Nick Campanella, Medrecycler-RI CEO

The company is working its way through regulatory hurdles from both DEM and the Town of West Warwick. Valverde and Caldwell want East Greenwich to have a say because of the site’s location – all traffic in and out of the site travels on Division Road. A number of EG residents have also expressed concern and the Town of East Greenwich appealed a DEM decision granting Medrecycler-RI a “minor source” air pollution permit both to DEM and in Superior Court. (New England Tech, which is located across the street from the Medrecycler site, signed on to the Superior Court appeal).

In the appeal, the town argued it should have had a chance to comment as an abutter. Minor source permits do not require public hearings, where EG would have had a chance to comment, but EG argued the technology is not widely used and has never been used in Rhode Island, requiring a different standard.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter dismissed the town’s appeal in August but allowed the town to amend its complaint. After a subsequent hearing in October, the judge appointed former Chief Justice Frank Williams as mediator. The focus of the talks has been on what sorts of conditions could be placed on the air permit to protect health and safety, according to town lawyer Peter Skwirz. DEM ruled against the town in September.

At the nearly three-hour information session Jan. 25, Campanella fielded a number of questions on everything from why this particular location, to how many trucks will be in and out of the facility, to more technical questions about pyrolysis. 

When asked by EG resident Devorah Brumberger why he chose Rhode Island (he lives in New Jersey), Campanella said the state was supportive of renewable energy and job creation and was centrally located in New England. Later he added the site’s location close to Route 95 was also a bonus. When asked why they weren’t locating at Quonset, which has a number of industrial businesses, Campanella said they would have had to build their own building and that was “cost prohibitive.” 

Medrecycler-RI is leasing the 48,000-square-foot Division Road site which is part of a 500,000 building.

Campenella told EG’s Tracie Kosakowski the facility would be processing “regulated medical waste,” adding, “those red containers in doctors’ offices will come to us.”

Kevin Budris from the Conservation Law Foundation has called pyrolysis simply a type of incineration, with potentially dangerous emissions. Pyrolysis uses high heat to essentially melt the waste.

Richard Bingham, with Technotherm, Inc., a South African company on tap to supply the pyrolysis system, said on Jan. 25 pyrolysis was not incineration because there was no oxygen in pyrolysis. 

“If there are any potential emissions, they are destroyed. In the case of this facility, the chance of fugitive emissions is zero,” Bingham said. “I’d be happy to put this in my garden.” 

A computer rendering of the inside of the proposed Medrecycler-RI facility.

Other questions focused on how the medical waste would be delivered to the facility. Campanella said it would receive 35 to 70 tons a day, the equivalent of four to eight truckloads. When asked who would be inspecting the truck contents, he said the company would only contract with registered waste haulers who would be delivering waste in sealed containers, so there would be no need to inspect the contents of each truck as it arrived. 

“Whoever the hauler is is going to give us a manifest, with a complete tracking system from when they pick it up to our facility,” Campanella said. He noted there would be no radioactive materials.

Bingham said that 70 tons of material that would formerly have gone to the landfill after it was sterilized would, through the pyrolysis technique, be reduced to about a quarter of the waste.

EG resident Amy Putrino asked Campanella about future growth, quoting his words to the West Warwick Planning Board about the “great expansion opportunity” at the site. Campenella said they did have the room to double their operation but had no immediate plans to expand. 

He said the facility would have “plenty of failsafe systems.”

The two legislators remain unconvinced, as have some residents of EG, many of whom have signed a petition against the facility started by EG’s Denise Lopez which has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

“The town of East Greenwich gets no revenue whatsoever from this proposal, but its people suffer just as much risk as West Warwick. We will have the emissions, the trucks in our neighborhood, the potential for accidents, and the questionable material being brought into the area without anyone on the receiving end ensuring that it is safe and that its contents are what it purports to be. It is unconscionable that our town leaders would have no standing in this matter when the abutting properties are in East Greenwich,” said Rep. Caldwell. 

DEM is holding a formal hearing on Medrecycler-RI’s application for a major source permit for water discharge on Monday, March 15. Interested parties can submit comments in advance of the hearing to DEM’s Office of Land Revitalization and Sustainable Materials Management ([email protected]). Here’s a DEM fact sheet about the project: Medrecycler Fact Sheet. You can find additional information about the project on their website HERE.

Previous EG News stories on Medrecycler-RI:

Public to Hear from Medrecycler Jan. 25
Town Handed 2 Legal Setbacks
West Warwick Medical Recycling Plant Would Use High Heat Technology
Town Appeals Permit for West Warwick Medical Waste Plant
EG Seeks More Input on Planned West Warwick Recycling Plant


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Renu englehart
Renu englehart
February 9, 2021 6:32 pm

It is very important that public attend the RIDEM March 15th meeting regarding the Intent to Approve of the MedRecycler project. All the current RIDEM docs can be found here. This facility while in West Warwick will be using East Greenwich roads and intersections to bring waste to this facility. Members of the public can also email RIDEM at [email protected] and [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

February 9, 2021 6:45 pm
Reply to  Renu englehart

Renu Englehart is a member of the EG Town Council.

February 10, 2021 7:24 am

As someone who recently bought a home in EG, not too far from the proposed faculty, I have deep concerns. My concerns are of a health and investment:resell nature, which anyone who owns property in this beautiful region should have. Regulatory agencies make mistakes which cause accidents and harm. This one seems like one just waiting to happen. There are other more appropriate spots for this kind of facility, perhaps it’s an equally as residential area in New Jersey.

February 10, 2021 10:48 am

There is already a company in RI that does this. It is called Stericycle.

February 10, 2021 4:26 pm

Amazing that there would be an issue with a company trying to provide a better, cleaner way to reduce medical waste to 1/4 of its normal volume , and with little to no biologic or environmental effects . The alternative is to simly dump it raw into a landfill or incinerate it, causing air emissions , bird posioning and water runoff . Althoug I understand the concerns, it’s important to know all the facts of this facility before instantly saying “not in my backyard”…

February 10, 2021 9:22 pm

More useless nonsense, not even in the Town. Typical EG folks snubbing there nose at a company trying to make a living, utterly ridiculous.

February 15, 2021 3:08 pm

” East Greenwich roads and intersections”, someone should tell the council member Division Road is a State Road and the Intersection of Rte 2 and Division Road which I’m certain she refers to is also owned by the State, of course one would think she would know considering she lives on a State Road…..

February 18, 2021 6:37 am

This technology is unproven for the proposed use – medical (with large degree of plastic) waste. It poses a high potential risk to the health, safety and environment and requires strict oversight and regulation that the DEM has already admitted it is not equipped to do. The system should NOT be TESTED in a residential community (any Rhode Island community) with high population density. If it is allowed to go through it should be an limited capacity until at least proven safe. Common sense limitations would be to limit the type and amount of waste (use the industry standards for incineration in high population areas) it can treat until proven safe.

February 23, 2021 12:56 pm

for anyone who is OK with this, I suggest making a road trip to Stericycle in Woonsocket on days they are burning….unbearable

March 9, 2021 9:42 am

This reminds me of the 90’s in California with PGE

April 13, 2021 10:45 am

We burn, we dump, we bury & we trash it in our waterways but when a company wants to do the right thing and recycle Med waste…….we say no its find the way we use to do it. Short of dumping all our waste in space what other solutions do people have to getting rid of waste? We can’t continue with the same old ways of polluting the air, land & water… least try something new and move forward not stand pat and or backwards.


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