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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Charlestown’s recycling still lags

Stuck in next to last place
By Will Collette

When the state divided up the profits from the sale of materials taken out of the waste stream for recycling, it had almost $2 million to share.

Based on the gross tonnage of recycled material, Charlestown came in at 38th place, next to last, for the second year running. This year, as well as last year, the dubious distinction of the last place finish went to West Greenwich.

Sure Charlestown is small so obviously there’s no comparison between Charlestown and, for example, Providence and Warwick.

But compared to our peers, and even compared to our past performance, Charlestown is lagging behind on recycling.

Last year, before he was pushed out of office, then Town Administrator William DiLibero presented Charlestown’s recycling results to the Town Council. He noted that Charlestown had recycled 342.34 tons and, for that, Charlestown received $6,908.19 in profit-sharing.

DiLibero noted that Charlestown’s lackluster reports needed action and that he was ordering some measures to improve performance. More recycling bins would be installed at town beaches. Private haulers would be reminded to make sure to keep recyclables separate and to make sure Charlestown was given proper credit when they took the waste to the state Central Landfill.

DiLibero noted that it’s problematic to get our part-time residents to take recycling seriously, but that the town needed to make the effort. At the time, as I reported it, the Town Council majority seemed disinterested and unengaged on the subject.

Charlestown has little to show for the efforts of the past year. Our 2012 tonnage increased by only 9.28 tons to 351 tons, bringing our profit-sharing total to $7,539.75. That’s an increase of only 2.7%.

And it doesn't look like we're going to do any better in 2013. If you look at the most recent report from Charlestown Public Works to the Town Council, we sent 69.48 tons to the Central Landfill, but of that, only 26.84 tons were recyclables. Our monthly average last year was 29.25 tons. 

Charlestown recycling
Our poor performance has little to do with size. There are seven Rhode Island towns that have smaller populations than Charlestown, but only one of them, West Greenwich, did worse.

The smallest town of them all, New Shoreham (a.k.a. Block Island) has a population just over one-eighth the size of Charlestown, but they recycled almost twice as much tonnage (612.54 tons).

Little Compton is around half the size of Charlestown, but recycled nearly twice as much (589.09 tons).

The most impressive small town is Jamestown. With 2400 fewer inhabitants than Charlestown, Jamestown recycled 810.47 tons.

Exeter, Richmond and Foster also beat Charlestown by more than 200 tons each even though they have smaller populations than Charlestown.

Our large part-time population is simply no excuse when you compare Charlestown’s results with those of Block Island, Little Compton and Jamestown who also have large seasonal populations.

We have several members of the Town Council who like to investigate things – I’m thinking of Deputy Dan Slattery and our ace researcher George Tremblay. Isn’t it time for them to try to find out why Charlestown lags so far behind its peers in recycling?

Perhaps they can tear themselves away from their crusades against affordable housing and against struggling working families to address what appears to be a real problem. A real problem that often gets deposited in the trash cans at Cumberland Farms or on our roadsides.

Maybe that’s just part of our traditional “rural lifestyle” where we just used to throwing our trash out the windows of our pick-ups.

Maybe Rhode Island’s mandatory recycling law is the problem. Perhaps Charlestown doesn’t recycle because state law says we need to. We’re such revolutionaries down here that if our state oppressors tell us to do something, we just have to do the opposite. If that’s the case, then clearly our CCA-sponsored town officials have themselves a new crusade to launch – repeal the state recycling law.