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Rhode Island Solid Waste Management & Recycling Program Overview

Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation
65 Shun Pike, Johnston, RI 02919-4512

NERC Board Member Representative

Vacant

Program Contacts

General Information

Business Assistance Guide

Solid Waste Facilities

State Surplus Property Program 

Compost Information

Overview

In Rhode Island, most major waste management functions have historically been vested in two agencies: the R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). The Corporation's major responsibility is developing and operating facilities and programs for solid waste management and recycling, while DEM is mainly responsible for regulating solid and hazardous waste management facilities. However, both agencies have other responsibilities, including planning, public education, technical assistance, and funding.

RIRRC, a quasi-state agency, is charged with the development of "an integrated statewide system of solid waste management facilities" including recycling facilities. RIRRC owns and operates solid waste management facilities, and plans and implements commercial and municipal recycling and source reduction programs. Today, Rhode Island's municipal recycling programs are a collaboration between RIRRC and the state's 39 municipalities. RIRRC provides technical assistance to the municipalities for their recycling programs.

Municipal Recycling Program: A History

When the R.I. municipalities first began their recycling programs in 1988, the materials collected were:

Glass containers, tinned steel cans, aluminum cans, foil, and pie plates, "#2" HDPE plastic milk/water jugs, "#1" PETE soda bottles, and newspapers placed inside brown paper grocery bags.

In 1995, Rhode Island increased the number of recyclables that could be collected cost-effectively. The expanded list includes all the materials listed above, as well as the following:

Mixed paper, magazines and catalogues, paperboard, corrugated cardboard, telephone directories, textiles, scrap metals, milk cartons and juice boxes, colored HDPE plastic bottles (such as "#2" detergent bottles), custom PETE (all other "#1" plastic containers), and empty aerosol and latex paint cans.

The materials in the original recycling program comprised approximately 19% of the residential waste stream, and the expanded program targets approximately 42%. The expanded recycling program was tested in Foster, Rhode Island, to determine if diversion could be increased without significant costs, and then rolled out in other communities beginning in 1995. Since that time, all participating municipalities made the transition into the expanded program, which was dubbed the "Maximum Recycling Program." Only textile collection has been halted as the markets no longer exist for this material.

In 2012, the program was adjusted further and now accepts containers up to five gallons in size, adding polypropylene (“#5” plastic) to the approved materials list. Removed from the program were scrap metal and paint cans, both plastic and metal.


The following is a list of assistance programs and incentive initiatives that RIRRC currently offers municipalities for participating in the State's recycling program:

  • $0.00 tip fee for recyclables.
  • Recyclables Profit Share – Fifty percent of the fiscal year profit from the sale of municipal recyclables is divided among participating municipalities based on the municipality’s recycling tonnage delivered to the MRF.
  • Subsidized recycling bins distribution: blue 22-gallon bins (for MR) and green 16-gallon bins (for paper) at discount to qualifying municipalities.
  • Statewide advertising and promotion of recycling program.
  • Matching grant funding, up to $5,000 per municipality from a total pool of $50,000, to assist with maintaining the recycling program.

Other Recycling Initiatives

  • Technical Assistance Waste Audits - RIRRC continues to offer waste audits to any commercial or institutional waste generators who are interested in implementing a recycling or source reduction program.
  • Comprehensive education and outreach programs for schools (tours, teachers aids etc.) - RIRRC offers tours of the Central Landfill and the Materials Recycling Facility to any interested group at no charge. Approximately 28,500 people visited RIRRC's facilities for a tour, or attended a RIRRC presentation in2014-2015.RIRRC staff is available for presentations on source reduction, recycling, and composting to school classes and other organizations throughout the state.
  • Composting - RIRRC's subsidized home compost bin sales continue to be popular with state residents, as is the availability of staff for technical assistance. RIRRC has sold over 15,500 discounted home composting bins since 1993..
  • Recycling Hotline - RIRRC has increased the promotion of its recycling question hotline, which receives hundreds of calls each week from RI residents on all aspects of their recycling programs.
  • Social Media – RIRRC has a social media presence through its Facebook and Twitter pages, and a YouTube channel. The YouTube channel features “How-To” videos about RI’s recycling program, as well a virtual tours of the RIRRC facility.
  • Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program (Eco-Depot) - In March of 2001, responsibility for the management of the Eco Depot Household Hazardous Waste Facility was transferred to RIRRC from RIDEM. The days and hours of operation were increased significantly, providing more flexibility for RI residents wishing to properly dispose of their HHW. Since 2001, Eco-Depot has collected more than 3,176,600 pounds of HHW.

RIRRC is seeking ways to increase the diversion of recoverable materials from the commercial sector, particularly material generated in schools and multi-family complexes, where current recovery programs are limited.

In 2000, RIRRC began free collections of residential computer waste - the first state-wide permanent collection of e-waste in the United States. The program expanded in 2004 with the addition of cellular telephones, and televisions (for a small fee). It was expanded again in late 2004 to collect small numbers of e-waste from commercial sources, at a fee of .20/lb. To make the program accessible, collections are held at sites throughout the state. Since inception, RIRRC has collected approximately 1 million pounds of e-waste. In 2008, the RI General Assembly passed an e-waste manufacturer responsibility law, which includes a ban on e-waste disposal at the Central Landfill. The ban is effective January 31, 2009.

In 2005, RIRRC began the first state-wide collection of plastic film shopping bags, called ReStore. RIRRC located collection receptacles in each major supermarket chain and the IGAs. The plastic film bags are collected by the supermarkets, and either baled and marketed on their own, or delivered to the RI MRF for baling and sale. In January 2008, the collection efforts expanded to include all retail establishments conveying more than $8 million in goods in RI or occupying more than 10,000 square feet of retail or wholesale space.

RIRRC also oversees the Mattress Recycling EPR program, slated to begin in early 2016. This program will eliminate the disposal fee on mattresses and box springs, and instead will charge a recycling fee upon purchase of every new mattress or mattress and box spring set. The program will be operated by the Mattress Recycling Council. 

Materials Targeted in R.I.'s 
Municipal Recycling Programs

Container Stream

PET containers up to 5 gallons

HDPE bottles and jugs* up to 5 gallons

PP containers up to 5 gallons

Milk cartons/juice boxes 

Glass food/beverage containers

Tinned steel cans

Aluminum cans, foil, plates

 Empty aerosol cans 

* No Automotive Fluid Containers 

Paper Stream 

Corrugated cardboard (OCC) 

Mixed residential papers 

Newspapers

Paper shopping bags 

Magazines/catalogs 

Small corrugated containers 

Paperboard