In her second annual visit to Glen Hills, Pat Perry, a tour guide at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), had a lot of new information to share with the students.
"There are big changes at the landfill since I saw you last year," Perry said. "We have a new machine there from Scandanavia; I call her Bertha.”
She explained to the students that previously, in order to recycle, individuals had to look at the bottoms of the containers for icons that indicate whether the items are recyclable or not.
"Now, you don't have to. Any household plastic containers, two gallons or under, are recyclable," she said, holding up an example of a two-gallon bucket in order to give the students a visual as to just how big the household plastic containers can be.
Perry explained the state’s single stream system was implemented thanks to “Bertha.” Rather than having to sort recyclables between different colored containers, there is now no need to do that; everything can be put into one bin of either color.
Perry reminded the students the dangers of including plastic shopping bags in their regular trash receptacles.
"These types of plastic bags get tangled in our trees, in our ponds and are a danger to the animals at the landfill," she said, recalling an instance where a swan used a plastic bag for its nest, a move which could suffocate the baby swans once born.
Perry asked several students wearing fleece tops to stand and model "the latest in recycled plastics," as an example of what can be done with the recycled materials.
Additionally, Perry let the students know that special event paper goods, such as wrapping paper and some boxes, as well as tissue paper, could all be recycled, rather than put into their regular trash bins.
"We are running out of space at the landfill," she said. "Once it's full, in about 25 years, what will you do with all of your trash? Here in Rhode Island, we've really only got one place for trash and in 20 to 25 years we're going to have to close it. Our best bet is to recycle. We can't incinerate in Rhode Island and the cost to ship it out to places like Canada or Georgia is very high.”
She passed along a tip from the RIRRC mascot, Max Man, who was scheduled to appear for the younger Glen Hills students later that morning.
"Max Man says, if we went out and collected all soda cans in just three months, June, July and August, we could rebuild every single airplane in America, because airplanes and aluminum cans are made of the same thing,” she said.
Passing along her final piece of information, Perry let the students know that each city and town that participates in recycling receives money back for their city or town.
"Last year, in 2011, Cranston received $146,939.27 for recycling their trash," she said. "Trash is an easy money-maker. Your city made all that money from what some people call trash."