Town Tells Residents to Clean Up Recycling Act  

by | Mar 28, 2022

Wrong item in your blue container? Whole bin will be rejected

For many years, the town had done pretty well when it came to recycling, which was good for the town’s budget, since recycled trash is free to dispose of at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp. (RIRRC). The rest of the town’s trash goes to the central landfill, which charges $47 a ton. 

More recently, however, RIRRC has been rejecting a lot more of our recycling because it’s been deemed “contaminated.” In essence, people are dumping the wrong stuff into those big blue recycle containers. 

That means the town’s paying more for trash disposal. If a truck gets to the RIRR and the contents are found to be contaminated, that load then gets dumped at the landfill, for a fee. Asst. Town Engineer Mark Conboy said Monday the town used to have maybe four or five recycle loads rejected a year. Now it’s pretty much every week. 

So far in 2022, the town has been charged an additional $6,500 to pay for the rejected recycling loads. If the town exceeds its “cap,” then the price (the “tipping fee”) almost doubles: instead of $47/ton the town has to pay $90/ton.  

So the Department of Public Works is amping up its messaging, starting with those who have their trash collected on Tuesdays. Turns out, the worst offenders live in the Hill & Harbor neighborhood (gulp, that’s where I live!). It seems a lot of us put our recyclables in plastic bags and then put the bags in the blue container. That’s a no-no. In fact, NO plastic bags or plastic wrapping is allowed. (FYI, you can dispose of – clean – plastic at many supermarkets, including Dave’s.) Check out the graphics here for other does and don’ts.

Starting this week, town employees will be getting up before dawn and checking recycling containers at the curb. Those containing the wrong items (see the graphic) will get an orange card with boxes checked for those categories of items that do not belong. That orange tag is meant to tell the recycling truck to skip that container. Which means you would have to wait another two weeks for a pick up.

So, come one everyone, let’s do better! If you have questions, call EG Public Works at (401) 886-8621. You can learn a LOT more about this issue at RIRRC’s website HERE.



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March 28, 2022 5:51 pm

Is there a threshold for it to be considered contaminated, or does one wrong item contaminate the entire load for that day.

March 29, 2022 10:55 am

I was thinking from the town/truck perspective. What is the threshold for them to reject a truck

April 1, 2022 2:43 pm
Reply to  Jay

I find it disheartening that the focus is on extra charges for contaminated recycling instead of developing a comprehensive plan that allows MORE types of things to be recycled. If loads of recycling get flagged as contaminated, there should be a separate center that isn’t a landfill where that recycling can be “decontaminated.” The goal should be reduction of trash in landfills and reusing where possible, not lowering trash costs for the town. In addition, if East Greenwich has an issue with plastic bags, maybe they should work with other adjacent towns to remove plastic bags from stores so there’s less of a chance the bags are available to be used to put recyclables in.

March 29, 2022 6:16 am

Interesting- I have unknowingly been an offender with shredded paper. Thanks for the article!

March 31, 2022 7:25 am
Reply to  JOANNIE

The town must provide a place to bring old paint cans, compost (daily fresh food scraps), a place for recycling old clothing, plastic like coat hangers. The one stream concept promotes people to think, “Why not recycle this?”

The silly “no plastic straws” is a good example of a bad policy on plastic pollution. A law that address nothing. We need a commercial recycling center that can recycle more items.

March 29, 2022 1:23 pm

Maybe they can pay for the overage out of the town managers inflated salary and vehicle stipend.

March 29, 2022 8:18 pm
Reply to  Don

Maybe you can just separate your trash properly.

March 30, 2022 5:10 pm

Hi, do they accept the plastic that ready to consume salad greens, berries, or cherry tomatoes come in?

March 30, 2022 8:21 pm

The confusion with shredded paper that the RIRRC used to accept it and actually instructed us to place it in a clear plastic bag tied shut. Perhaps this was when recyclables were separated curbside by the consumers.
The state switched to mixed recycling because they say it leads to higher participation rates (like sorting paper from cans & bottles is a too much to ask!).

Heather Larkin
Heather Larkin
March 31, 2022 1:18 pm
Reply to  Kevin

I’ve been carefully putting my shredded paper in a plastic bag for years as instructed. When was the change made, I wonder??

August 3, 2022 9:30 am

We took the recycling tour at RIRRC this spring. It was very informative and interesting as well. We learned things such as prescription bottles are not recyclable because there is no buyer for that grade plastic. They go into the landfill. Also to remove metal lids from glass containers and put bottle caps and can lids into a larger can and crimp shut. If not they fall out of the sorting machine and onto the floor to be disposed of in the land fill. I highly recommend taking the tour. They provide simple at home sorting tips to make sure the batch is accepted. It’s free and eye opening as to the do’s and don’ts you may not be know about.


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