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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tree Amnesty: Clarification on the clarification

Charlestown’s complicated waste disposal policies deconstructed, sort of
Is red tape recyclable?
By Will Collette

I kind of regret ever mentioning that Charlestown was offering a “tree amnesty” to allow residents to get rid of busted up trees from winter storm Nemo. When Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz first mentioned it at a Town Council meeting, it seemed pretty simple and straight-forward, not to mention a really great idea.

Turns out it’s not simple, straight-forward or very logical at all. First, you will be turned away if you do not have a current town permit to take your waste to the CRCC, a.k.a. transfer station.

If you are a resident, but use a hauler and don’t have a CRCC sticker, tough. Buy a sticker for $20 or go away.

If you are a part-time resident or summer visitor and thus not eligible to buy a $20 CRCC sticker, even if you really want one, tough.

That’s part 1. Here's Part 2: you must go to Town Hall and get a residents’ form (or download it by clicking here) each time you want to take a load of tree debris to the CRCC. Whether you download it or get the form from Town Hall, please fill it out before you show up so you don't hold up the line.

If you fail to bring a form for each load, go away. The tree amnesty ends on June 14.

Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz explains: “The tree project is complicated because of FEMA requirements for the Town to certify where the waste is from. No resident certification ….. no reimbursement.”

I can understand the town's self-interest in doing what needs to be done to get the FEMA money.

However, Charlestown often has storms where trees come down and no FEMA money. Shouldn't we have a regular, post-storm plan for the recurring need to get rid of wood debris?

The town should be able to take the wood and put it to some use. It can be dropped into a wood chipper for nice mulch. Or composted. Or local residents or local wood cutters could have access to it to use as fire wood. It's waste wood when it's cluttering up a residents' property, but it's also an untapped resource.

There was one piece of good trashy news in the most recent edition of the Charlestown Pipeline. You can take you electronic waste to the CRCC and unload it for either recycling or presumably safe disposal even if you are not a resident.

Mark Stankiewicz explains why the policy on electronic waste is the way it is: "In 2008 RI enacted a manufacturer/producer responsibility law that requires manufactures of residentially-used monitors, televisions, CPU’s and laptops to pay their share of the recycling costs. RIRRC was charged with creating & managing the state’s program. Towns that use the RIRRC program (i.e. Charlestown) pay no fee for the recycling program covered items, either to the resident or to the municipality. The manufactures of the E-waste pay for the state program even if the person does not reside in Charlestown."

So if you have electronic waste, you don’t need a sticker or a form or fingerprints or a photo ID or passport. If this doesn’t work out for you, please send me an e-mail.

Every year, Charlestown comes in close to the bottom of all Rhode Island cities and towns for the amount of money we receive for sending our recyclables to the state resource recovery center. 

Yes, we get paid to recycle. Towns with even smaller populations than Charlestown’s received far more revenue than we do for actively participating in the program. 

For example, Little Compton has half our population but recycles twice as much. Block Island has 1/8th our population and recycles nearly twice as much. Jamestown, Richmond, Foster and Exeter out-recycle Charlestown with smaller populations.

By being possessive about our CRCC facility and restrictive on who can use it, we give up revenue we could collect through a simple policy that, if you have recyclable material, we’ll take it and we don’t care who you are or where you’re from.

Welcome to Charlestown's dumpster-diving Olympics!
Our restrictive policies on who can use the CRCC not only costs us recycling revenue, but creates a town-wide trash problem, especially when we are flooded with summer residents and visitors.

We have few trash bins and where we do, they are often filled to over-flowing with trash bags from part-time residents who can’t buy a CRCC permit. 

Town merchants (e.g. Cumberland Farms, Michael’s) end up with this summer visitors' orphan waste in their trash bins and dumpsters, too. 

Look along the roadsides on Routes 1, 1A, 2, 216, 112 and so on, and you’ll see the fruits of our short-sighted trash policies.

Frankly, given how much garbage our summer guests cause - and I'm amazed to even be thinking this - we'd be better off giving them CRCC permits at a deep discount just to keep them from trashing Charlestown.

Or, as an alternative, I’d also like to see Charlestown Police bust some litterers and haul their asses into our Municipal Court.

RI General Laws (click here) provide for fines of $85 to $500 or as an alternative sentence, between a minimum of two hours and maximum of 25 hours on litter patrol.

Let’s have a few show trials where we either make them pay the maximum fine or have them put on orange jumpsuits and police the trash from along our roadways.

But let’s try to make it easier for people to do the right thing. That by itself ought to make a difference.