Warwick’s Mann Distribution, LLC, Fined $200,000

Photo by Alex via Flickr
Photo by Alex via Flickr

The chemical company Mann Distribution, LLC, located in Warwick, R.I., was charged $200,000 on Tuesday when they plead guilty to violating the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations. The company has also been issued a three-year probation period for the offense and will be asked to issue a public apology.

Mann Distribution, LLC, violated the Clean Air Act by failing to implement risk management facilities for their workers and the community. This is required by plants which store more than 1,000 pounds of Hydrofluoric Acid. The plant has 92 drums of the acid, weighing 500 pounds each, equalling just under 50,000 pounds.

According go the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hydroflouric Acid can have serious long term effects on one’s health. Some of these effects include lingering chronic lung disease, skin damage, fingertip injuries, and damage to the esophagus and stomach.

This video shows 70 percent concentrated Hydroflouric Acid (the same concentration as that stored at Mann Distribution, LLC, facilities) eating through glass:

Tyler Amon, special agent in charge of EPA’s Criminal Program in Rhode Island, told the Providence Journal about the EPA’s Risk Management regulations.

“EPA’s Risk Management Program has a clear purpose — to prevent and prepare for releases of toxic and flammable substances that have the potential for catastrophic consequences,” said Amon. “The sentence imposed by the court underscores the importance placed on protecting workers, emergency responders and communities.”

The charges are based on a 2009 EPA inspection, though it is only just being resolved now. Hopefully, by now (6 years later), Mann Distribution, LLC, has a better system in place to protect their workers.

Recycling Rules from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation

5575089139_74ef66baea_oThe Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation has rolled out a new set of rules to keep you in the know about what you can and cannot recycle. Many items that people believe are recyclable are actually not, and when these items end up in the recycling bin it can contaminate the entire process.

A good example of this is when people try to recycle pizza boxes that have significant amounts of food residue leftover on them. Many people think they are beating the system, and being green when they choose to recycle their pizza boxes anyway. Unfortunately for them, it is actually more detrimental to do this, since contamination during the recycling process can cost up to $700 million throughout the whole industry annually. Contamination in recycling can lead to damaged equipment, and also wasted time, materials, and resources.

The new article from the RIRRC reveals other items that people either believe is recyclable, or try to recycle anyway, that can be harmful to the recycling industry. Bags are at the top of the list, since they are recycled in a special way. For now in Rhode Island, bags can be recycled by returning them to the food store, but soon the state may be following Barrington’s lead and banning plastic bags all together.

Also on the list is automotive fluid bottles. This seems pretty self-explanatory since many of the chemicals in these fluids can be dangerous and even flammable. Even a washed out bottle has risk of dangerous residue remaining in the container. Lastly is foam, compostables, and materials that tear or shatter easily (such as jewel cd cases).

It’s hard to believe that many people would think to recycle items like this anyway, but it can’t hurt to get the information out there. It’s likely that people who care enough to try to recycle specific items such as this are aware that doing so could cause significant damage to the recycling industry.

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R.I.’s Own Save The Bay Picks Up Almost 8,000 Pounds of Trash

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Photo by Save the Bay via Flickr

Gina Raimondo wasn’t the only one busy on Earth Day in Rhode Island. In the week leading up to the holiday, the nonprofit organization Save the Bay utilized its many volunteers to pick up 7,783 pounds of trash from beaches in six different Rhode Island communities.

Photo by Save the Bay via Flickr
Photo by Save the Bay via Flickr

The organized cleanups started on April 18th in Newport and wrapped up on April 25th in Providence. Other stops in the week of trash removal included East Providence, Narragansett, Bristol, and Warwick. On Saturday, September 19, 2015, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup will take place covering 80 beaches and 59 miles of shoreline. Last year, over 2,000 Ocean State residents showed up to help.

In addition to Save the Bay’s frequent organized shoreline trash removal events, they also have a number of other events coming up over the Summer. For example, the Save the Bay Swim, where swimmers and kayakers travel just under 2 miles through the bay to raise money and awareness for the Save the Bay organization.

Another popular Save the Bay event is the Taste of The Bay. This event not only raises awareness for Save the Bay, but also for a number of local businesses who provide food and drink. Save the Bay also wisely pairs this event with their annual meeting, to get more people in on their cause. The lineup for the 2015 event already includes popular businesses including Foolproof Brewing Co., Narragansett Beer, Whole Foods, and Preppy Pig BBQ.

Underwhelming Coverage on Trash in Rhode Island

Through a brutal winter that saw trash collection conditions become dangerous, coverage of the topic in Rhode Island news remained woefully low. Aside from local newspapers providing updates on trash pickup delays during the winter months, the coverage is nearly non-existent. Trash is not a glamorous topic, and it’s not always the most interesting, but it is always important to a state with a reputation for being unclean.

Over the course of this semester, my team and I have had the opportunity to provide coverage on this topic through our multimedia blog. We have had the privilege of interviewing some very interesting people with strong opinions when it comes to recycling and waste management throughout the semester. I am glad that we got an opportunity to get to not only hear these peoples messages, but also make their voices heard by a wider audience.

Most importantly, throughout the semester, I saw the advantages that multimedia coverage of a topic such as trash provides. Many people learn better with visual aids, but waste coverage seems to benefit especially from it. Waste seems to be a topic which demands visual accompaniment. It’s typically very colorful, and it catches peoples attention when there is video or images.

One of our best projects this semester came in the form of a Google Map with data points showing each Rhode Island community, it’s recycling rate, and a link to it’s public works department. Personally, I haven’t seen a project much like this and I think it is extremely valuable for many people. It is beneficial to citizens who want to know more about their own or surrounding communities, and it also can help public administrators who want to analyze or make changes in their town.

Pizza Box Recycling Continues to Change

Pizza boxes and the rules surrounding recycling them continue to change both in Rhode Island and around the United States. Some counties have started to allow pizza box recycling regardless of their condition. The condition of the pizza box is the main problem with recycling. The cardboard itself is obviously recyclable, but the grease and cheese residue is difficult to breakdown. Stickers and coupons on the design of the box can complicate the process as well.

The Providence Journal Trash Tutorial explains when a pizza box may be recyclable.

No major discoloration of the box, no dripping grease, and the grease isn’t covering the entire bottom portion of the box. A few splotches of grease are fine, as are a few spots of sauce.

Per Earth 911, grease and oil are not significant problems in recycling plastic, metal, and glass because those use a heating process. Cardboard and paper, however, are recycled using water. The grease causes an oil to form at the top of the water slurry, and paper fibers are caught in the oil in the process. Basically, the oil causes the process to be contaminated. This is why many food products, such as napkins, paper towels, and paper plates are non-recyclable.

Currently, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation website reads as follows when asked why pizza boxes are not recyclable;

If the pizza box were totally clean, it would be. The problem is that they seldom are. It is the grease from the pizza that is the problem. If the top of the box is entirely clean, rip it off and place it in your recycling bin, throwing the greasy part in the trash.

The real dilemma comes down to whether people will take the initiative to clean their pizza boxes to ensure they will not contaminate recycling batches. In the past, people have ripped just the clean half (top or bottom) of a pizza box and recycled only that. The grease isn’t going away in pizza, so a compromise or solution needs to be reached if they are to be recycled.

Raimondo Announces 23 Projects on Earth Day

Photo by Matt Cloutier via Flickr
Photo by Matt Cloutier via Flickr

BRISTOL, R.I.__ Governor Gina Raimondo pleased environmentalists around the state on Earth Day when she announced 23 new projects, many of which are designed to reduce the amount of storm water runoff that ends up in the states many bodies of water.

Most of the 23 projects also utilize a more environmentally friendly approach than in the past, opting to use trees and wetlands as the main tools. Known as green infrastructure, this system will provide many advantages including an extremely long life span. Rhode Island will receive $3.3 million in state and federal funding to help with the 23 storm water projects.

Betsy Dake, the senior environmental planner with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, told The Providence Journal about the plans.

“We’re dealing with stormwater by putting it in the ground,” said Dake, “We’re imitating nature.”

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza also expressed his support of the projects, having acknowledged the problem with storm water runoff in the past.

One of the projects will see the city of Providence working with StormTree, a local business which creates green stormwater filtration systems. The design is based on an open grate, which catches storm water and stores it, allowing the tree to drink it but also cleansing or de-polluting the water in the process. This project will be taking place in the Pleasant Valley Stream watershed.

At the announcement of the projects, in Roger Williams Park, Governor Raimondo explained the numerous benefits to the green infrastructure approach to the problem of stormwater pollution.

“These stormwater improvement projects will preserve our rivers and bays, but at the same time they will put people to work, which is what we need to do here in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said.

Raimondo should have made many people happy with her Earth Day announcement. Not only is she taking a green approach to a problem in Rhode Island, but she is creating jobs in the process. These projects should yield positive results relatively quickly, and offer long-term solutions to the pollution of bodies of water through storm runoff.

Recycling: How Does Roger Williams University Stack Up?

Bristol, R.I.__ Freshman Marine Biology Student Marissa Papapietro believes that recycling is readily available on campus, but that more can be done to improve it.

According to the Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges, Papapietro is right. Roger Williams does do quite a bit to create a campus which encourages recycling and sustainability. According to the Roger Williams University Green Guide, efforts include the addition of hydration stations to reduce plastic bottles, the addition of indoor recycling containers and over 70 outdoor recycling containers.

So what can Roger Williams do to improve it even further? Some of the most sustainable schools in the country provide a blueprint for further adjustments that could be made on the campus.

Georgetown University in Washington D.C. has implemented a system of green transportation that could be imitated with ease at RWU. In addition to the sustainable campus fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles (alternative fuels in the fleet include biodiesel, electricity, and vegetable oil), they also offer carpool incentives and Bikeshare utilities. Roger Williams was underway with alternative-fuel vehicles, implementing a shuttle which ran on 100% canola oil in 2007, but the shuttle has since been decommissioned for its rusty frame and is yet to be replaced.

One sustainable area which seems to be under appreciated by RWU students is the use of locally-produced food. Bon Appetite at Roger Williams University has supported and utilized local agriculture since 1999 in an initiative called Farm to Fork. In 2005 they have switched to cage-free eggs, and switched to humanely raised beef as of 2012. Since the Canola Oil Shuttle was retired, RWU has contributed their canola oil from the Commons to Newport Biodiesel.

Although Roger Williams University and Bon Appetit puts a lot of work in to applying sustainable practices to the universities food, there is more that can be done. At Warren Wilson College in North Carolina all food and lumber is sourced from their own gardens and forests. The tools that they use to harvest these resources, such as chainsaws, are powered by soy oil.

Roger Williams does not need to be the most green university in the United States, but it’s important to note that there is more that can be done. With that said, students of RWU should feel proud knowing that the campus which they live in puts a lot of effort in to being sustainable, even if many of these practices go unnoticed.