Shame on Thames

Video and text by DAVE FISHER/ecoRI News staff

NEWPORT, R.I. — We know that a big part of Rhode Island's economy is driven by tourism, but tourism has an overlooked side effect of creating massive amounts of waste. No place is this more evident than in and around the Dumpsters used by the businesses up and down Thames Street.

Newport businesses have the option to participate in the city's recycling collection system, but it's clear from this video, taken Labor Day morning, that many of the business owners in Newport's bustling downtown either don't know this, or more likely, don't care.

"It's frustrating," said Kristin Littlefield, Newport's Clean City Program coordinator. "We have direct mailed every business in the city, and even had some students from the MET School visit about half of the city's businesses to let them know about the program, but we've had little response."

About 20 of the city's some 1,400 businesses participate in this low-cost recyclable collection option. In fact, state law requires businesses to recycle, but there is little in the way of enforcement.

"We have stepped up citation and enforcement of recycling laws," Littlefield said. "We just ran a 'sting' where we caught one business putting their trash in residential barrels and bins."

The city installed solar-powered trash compactors on Thames Street last year, and just a few weeks ago, added solar-powered recycling compactors, which are geared to pedestrians in downtown Newport.