JOHNSTON—The odor beside Rhode Island’s Resource Recovery Corporation’s (RIRRC) Johnston landfill differs with each season. Today, the air is filled with a sweetly rotten odor of mulch. Driving by piles of decomposing compost on the 110 acre property, one can literally watch it break down beneath its own steam. In December, there is a piney whiff of spruce. In the summer comes an olfactory overload–the pungent aftermath of summer seafood. But any odor is impermanent, diminishing if not disappearing beneath the landfill’s smothering layers of earth and stone. From June 2009-June 2010, Rhode Island generated about 722,000 tons of garbage, actually lower than the million tons it buried in 2007. (Beside Johnston’s 210 foot high landfill, a rocky dynamited patch called Phase 6 will handle tons more.)
It is here at the administration offices for RIRRC that Rhode Island join the rapid nation-wide progression towards single stream recycling. Of the 600 residential Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) in the United States, over 200 have already either been converted to single-stream or were specifically built as single stream plants.
If plans remain on schedule, next year the new program will allow households to combine their recycling into one container rather than separating it. As smaller collection stations increase capacity, the frenzy of categorization at Johnston’s facility--with its filled trucks tipping, crushing, and returning--will become the new normal.
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