The purpose of this short piece is to provide Rhode Island residents and anyone else interested in recycling in RI with an up-close look at the way recyclables are sorted through the new single stream system at the Materials Recycling Facility in Johnston. For safety reasons, visitors of the facility may only view the operations through the windows of an observation room. As well as being available on the Recycle Together RI website, this video will play on monitors in the observation room to reveal what can’t be seen through the glass. It is also meant to stress the importance of placing proper materials in our collection bins each week so that the facility operations can run efficiently, workers remain safe, and a better quality baled “product” is produced.
The MRF is just the first stop that our papers, cans, and bottles make on their long road to becoming resource materials. Great amounts of energy and resources are required to simply sort our waste so it may be sold as commodities to companies that will process the materials.
Filming at the facility was intense. During each shoot, I was required to wear a reflective vest, a hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection (the sounds of the machinery and material in motion are deafening). Seeing truck loads of materials dumped on the tip floor one after another was overwhelming. On the one hand, it is gratifying to know the waste has been diverted from the landfill, but the volume of materials and the speed and consistency at which they arrive to the facility is disheartening. The experience has served to underscore the importance of No Trash Project and similar efforts.