Providence Now Fines for Trashy Recycling

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The city is imposing fines for egregious recycling. Earlier this month, the Department of Public Works began inspecting recycling bins on the city's South Side and issuing $50 fines to residents who heap trash in their green recycling totes.

Sheila Dormody, the city’s director of sustainability, said the fines are assessed only for flagrant dumping of prohibited items, such as bags of trash, food waste and car tires. An 18-inch fish head was recently discovered in one recycling bin.

The South Side is under surveillance because recycling trucks are being rejected at the Central Landfill in Johnston because of contamination. Tainted recycling reduces the city’s recycling rate and costs $32 a ton to dump in the landfill. Labor costs are also assessed for collecting and hauling polluted recycling. 

The citywide recycling rate is holding steady at 29 percent. The rate has climbed rapidly since last summer, when the rate was 15 percent. The city has since shifted to the larger recycling bins and allowed commingling of paper and plastic in the same bin.

A new bilingual mail and radio campaign targeting the South Side aims to improve participation. A citywide contest also was held last summer to increase recycling. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the operator of the state landfill, said contaminated recycling shipments from Providence, especially those with food and textiles, is a major problem for it sorting machine.

Dormody said a penalty is sometimes necessary to be green. “Paying a fine is also a good way for people to change their behavior," she said.

Fines are placed on the offending recycling bins.

Lots of Hope. A derelict city-owned lot near the Stop & Shop on Manton Avenue is expected to be the first community garden and farm involved in a new program managed by the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT). The property will be run by a local urban farmer or neighborhood organization and leased at a low rate through the SCLT. The program is intended to beautify the city, encourage urban farming and help ease the city’s problem with stormwater runoff.

The City Council will be asked to approve a five-year lease for the land at it April 4 meeting.

Compost. The city and SCLT also will being issuing a request for participants to manage neighborhood composting programs. Community organizations, including religious groups, are encouraged to submit proposals for managing two neighborhood sites for food-scrap collection and processing.

Solar. The city hopes to build on its success with a collaborative solar-energy project. Sixteen photovoltaic solar systems have been installed on homes and businesses on the West Side through a program with the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. The city hopes to expand the project to include solar hot water systems and branch out to other neighborhoods.

Earth Day Cleanups. Neighborhood cleanups are scheduled for 24 sites as part of the city’s first Earth Day Spring Cleaning. The cleanups begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20. To celebrate the hard work, an event with music, food and exhibits will be held at the Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park. Five locations will be hosting tree plantings. To volunteer, visit serverhodeisland.org.