A proposed medical waste facility in West Warwick would collect and burn waste from healthcare facilities across New England. But we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of our communities and environment. Now is not the time for Rhode Island to become the region’s dumping ground for toxic medical waste.
The waste industry claims that their so-called “waste-to-energy” technologies can help combat the climate crisis by reducing climate-damaging emissions. But these claims are misleading and inaccurate. Burning trash to create energy will not solve the climate crisis or our growing waste problem.
The plastic industry has been trying to take advantage of the pandemic to maximize profits. But fueling fear during a public health crisis is outrageous and must be called out. To truly protect public health and the environment long-term, we need full-scale reuse systems.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing concerns caused many New England states with bottle return programs to temporarily stop enforcing collection requirements at grocery stores, supermarkets, and liquor shops. Connecticut was among the states pressing pause on bottle bill enforcement. But as of May 20, the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has reinstated bottle collection requirements at these retail sites.
Under cover of the pandemic, the waste industry is trying to demolish critical environmental protections. In April, the waste industry and Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation asked the legislature to delay Vermont’s food scrap ban and trash recyclables, all under the guise of protecting the health of workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But they appear to be part of a push from waste industry groups to use the crisis to advance their own agenda in several New England states.
Last month, we helped raise the alarm about a dangerous proposal for a garbage depot near Washington Park and South Providence neighborhoods. The garbage depot – and the dust, odor, traffic, and water pollution that would come with it – would have forced more pollution on communities already overburdened by other nearby industrial facilities. The reckless proposal spurred weeks of community action and resulted in an unqualified victory for residents.
My first day on the job as Connecticut River Conservancy’s newest River Steward was a whirlwind – literally. We got an early morning start with our friends at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for a windy trip up and down the Connecticut River on their airboat. As we came to our first stop and dismounted the boat, I was shocked and disappointed to see the amount of plastic bottles and nips littering Connecticut’s shoreline.
At the corner of Allens and Thurbers avenues in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a less-than-four-acre lot that could soon be home to a massive garbage depot. The proposal has nearby residents in South Providence and Washington Park worried and angry – and with good reason. These communities are already burdened by daily pollution from other nearby industrial facilities.
Despite many good intentions, curbside recycling has turned out to be a disaster. But that doesn’t mean recycling is dead. We have solutions. One of the best systems for recycling our plastic, glass, and aluminum containers is the bottle return program, also known as the “bottle bill” or deposit-return.
Although some New England states pioneered the bottle return system, they have since fallen behind. But New England can improve its recycling by updating or adopting bottle return systems in each state. This would help reduce litter in our neighborhoods, parks, and waterways; it would keep recyclable material out of landfills and incinerators; and it would lift some recycling costs off of communities.