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Student's internship focuses on improving residents' recycling habits

Barrington's Alex Caizzi, a rising junior at the high school, is completing a summer internship focused on improving residents' recycling efforts in town.
Barrington's Alex Caizzi, a rising junior at the high school, is completing a summer internship focused on improving residents' recycling efforts in town.
Photo by Richard W. Dionne Jr., Story Courtesy of The Barrington Times

Posted July 25, 2019 2:40 pm

On Friday, July 12, a 12-and-a-half ton load of recyclable material from Barrington was rejected by officials at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.

That rejection likely cost Barrington taxpayers more than $700, as rejected loads of recycling are sent to the landfill where the town is charged a tipping fee. Since Sept. 2018, RIRRC has rejected nine loads of recycling from Barrington — the loads ranged in size from about five tons to more than 16 tons, and the resulting tipping fees have totaled more than $6,000.

Alex Caizzi is hoping to change that. 

The rising junior at Barrington High School is completing an internship this summer focused on improving the recycling habits of Barrington residents. 

"I'm going to build a pamphlet to explain that this is an easy fix. We can do this. I'm currently in the process of making that," said Alex. 

The local student has been gathering information and speaking with officials at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. 

"I checked out other municipalities in Rhode Island," Alex said. "I looked at East Providence. I looked at Newport. I looked at Westerly. I checked around the state. I went down to the Resource Recovery Corporation. I got in contact with the DPW. They gave me some of their numbers."

He said RIRRC sends out a pamphlet periodically, but it's not specific to Barrington. In this town, he said, there are two main challenges and both were factors in the July 12 rejected recycling load. 

"That load was rejected for moisture and plastic bags," he said. "That's our two main problems. So what people do, they think they're helping, they'll put the shredded paper in a plastic bag and put it in the recycling (bin). They think they're helping by putting it in the recycling, but that really hurts.

"This was also soaked. When a load comes into Johnston and it's soaking wet, it can't be accepted."

Alex said there are a few things Barrington residents can focus upon when it comes to recycling. First and foremost, people should never put plastic shopping bags in their recycling bins. 

"And my second main goal is to keep the loads dry. So on my street specifically, the trucks come by on Monday mornings. People always put the bins out Sunday night. But if it rains, that load gets rejected and costs the town $750 on average. Maybe you wait until the morning if it's going to rain that night. Or make sure it's covered. Otherwise it's costing the town money," he said. 

Alex and a handful of other Barrington students are participating in summer internships — the work helps them build experience in a workplace setting, it looks good on college résumés, and it counts for a high school credit. 

Alex, who was a member of the BHS state championship tennis team in the spring, said he was not sure what to expect when he started his work, but has been pleasantly surprised. 

"Actually, I'm having a more enjoyable time than I thought I would have," he said. "Hopefully next summer I can do the same thing again."

Alex said he hopes his work will lead to better recycling numbers in Barrington.

"A lot of people try, and we're doing very well," he said. "Six thousand dollars is a lot, but compared to other towns it's not bad. Providence is a lot worse. A lot of people in Providence don't even try. They just throw everything into the trash.

"I'm hoping for people to be more attentive (in Barrington). Because it will save money for the town and put money where it needs to be put. And helps the environment at the same time."

Rejected recycling loads

Following are Barrington's loads of recycling that have been rejected since Sept. 2018:

• Sept. 2018: 9.86 tons, tipping fee $713

• Oct. 2018: 10.53 tons, tipping fee $744

• Oct. 2018: 10.79 tons, tipping fee $757

• Nov. 2018: 16.58 tons, tipping fee $1,029

• Nov. 2018: 11.65 tons, tipping fee $797

• Jan. 2019: 4.91 tons, tipping fee $480

• Feb. 2019: 8.97 tons, tipping fee $671

• June 2019: 8.99 tons, tipping fee $852

• July 2019: 12.54 tons, est. tipping fee $840