Leaders revise rules on contaminated recycling

Leaders revise rules on contaminated recycling

PAWTUCKET – The City Council last week revised the city’s rules on solid waste and recycling, bringing changes recommended by the Department of Public Works to help the city cut down on the number of contaminated recycling loads that are being rejected by the state.

The changes include switching away from penalizing residents for violations and instead penalizing property owners for noncompliance. That will help city workers educate noncompliant residents and property owners, which in return will reduce the number of rejected recycling loads, say officials. Education is the best way to bring results, they say, but fines may also be necessary.

Another change is to increase the fine for a second violation from $25 to $50, a figure that’s still lower than fines in other communities, according to officials. The revised rules also prohibit leaving any recycling outside of a recycling container.

According to DPW personnel, other communities that have implemented the change to penalize property owners instead of residents have seen a tremendous drop in the number of rejected recycling loads, and this updated verbiage will hopefully lead to change in Pawtucket.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain, who voted for the change as part of a unanimous approval, said he understands the intent of the change, but said as a landlord himself he has a hard time when it comes to putting violations by tenants on property owners. There are ways to make sure tenants comply with rules not to mix trash with recycling, he said, including signing legal agreements.

Councilor John Barry said Wildenhain’s point is a good one, but said as he rides around the city, he’s seeing recycling bins overflowing with garbage. The issue is made worse when trash pickup is delayed a day, he said, with waste often left out on sidewalks for a full 48 hours. This change is needed, he said, and if it’s the step that will cut down on the abuse of the recycling program and reduce trash in recycling bins, “then it needs to happen.”

Many absentee landlords, living in communities all around Pawtucket, don’t seem to care about the issue, he said.

Increased disposal costs and excess trash tonnage last year cost the city about $400,000 in unbudgeted fees, according to officials. Of that $400,000, a little more than one-tenth, or $43,000, was due to rejected recycling loads.

Tipping fees for excess tons is expected to jump from $47 to $80, making change that much more important, say officials.

Richard Karsulavich, public works business manager, wrote to the City Council in October that state enforcement is up and recycling loads are being rejected. Each time that happens, the weight of the load and a $250 equipment usage charge is added to the city’s municipal solid waste cap.

Last year, the city had 364 tons of recycling rejected by the state, at the total cost of $43,430. This year, the city already had 241 tons of rejected recycling through one quarter, at an estimated cost of $26,630, and the total cost of rejected recycling is expected to top $100,000.