Recycling Made Simple by Following These Rules

Only four types of materials can be placed in your recycling bin — fiber, metal, glass, and plastic — as this display at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation in Johnston shows. But that doesn’t mean everything made of those materials can go in your curbside or transfer station recycling bin. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

Only four types of materials can be placed in your recycling bin — fiber, metal, glass, and plastic — as this display at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation in Johnston shows. But that doesn’t mean everything made of those materials can go in your curbside or transfer station recycling bin. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Recycling is something most people do, but the question is, are we, here in Rhode Island, doing it right?

During a Sept. 24 talk titled “Recycling Right: How is Rhode Island Really Doing?” at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) education and outreach manager Krystal Noiseux spoke about the challenges that recycling is facing nationally and locally.

“While a large portion of the country was relying on China to buy their recycling, Rhode Island was really only sending paper and cardboard,” Noiseux said.

China, once one of the biggest buyers of U.S. recyclable materials, recently stopped purchasing our recyclables as part of a policy called National Sword. But according to Noiseux, after the program dropped its blade, severing the ties between Chinese imports of American recyclables, the RIRRC and the state government reacted.

“Rhode Island’s response was to join a movement called Recycle Across America, whose goals were to standardize messaging and guidelines,” Noiseux said.

Because, let’s face it, recycling has been historically confusing. What goes into a mixed recycling bin? What do you do if you live in an apartment complex and your neighbors pollute the bin with trash? What about a greasy pizza box, is that recyclable?

The lack of simple and clear guidelines has contributed to a 34.7 percent recycling rate across the United States, and a whopping 2,521 rejected loads in 2018 of contaminated recycling from Providence alone.

In fact, about 93 percent of the recycling loads rejected last year at the landfill’s materials recycling facility came from Providence. Rejected loads typically consist of at least 30 percent trash.

Noiseux hopes that here in Rhode Island, with clearer guidelines, a standard recycling image, and a new optical sorter for combing through refuse, we can be a forerunner in proper recycling.

“Being a perfect recycler is really hard, but being a good recycler isn’t,” she said.

What you can recycle
• Fiber: paper, cardboard, and cartons.
• Metal: cans, lids, and foil; no old frying pans and the like.
• Glass: bottles and jars; no drinking glasses or optical glasses.
• Plastic: containers, such as bottles, jugs, cups.

And remember, don’t put your recycling in a plastic bag, that pretty much defeats the point.