Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to join a national program aimed at using a standardized recycling label. Major corporations, such as Whole Foods and Disneyland, have already signed up.
The nonprofit Recycle Across America designed simple standardized recycling labels to minimize confusion over what can and cannot be recycled no matter where you live. They customized labels for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation based on what’s recyclable in the Ocean State.
Krystal Noiseux, education and outreach manager for RIRRC, hopes these new labels will help keep trash out of recycling. More trash has ended up in recycling bins ever since the state switched to single stream recycling about four years ago. Contaminated recyclables have to be redirected to the landfill.
“We decided we needed to take a more simple approach with how we’re educating about recycling,” said Noiseux. “And instead of always shooting for the stars... we asked, 'What is the most bare bones simple information we can get out there that will produce cleaner, good recycling?'"
RIRRC came up with four basic categories: 1) paper, cardboard and cartons; 2) metal, cans, lids and foil; 3) glass, bottles and jars; 4) and plastics containers.
“If you just stick to those four categories and do nothing else, you’re going to produce good quality recycling,” said Noiseux.
Good quality recycling helps the state stay competitive in selling recyclables to companies that reuse this material.
More than one million RAA labels are displayed on bins throughout the country.
“And so if you’re seeing [the recycling label] when you are at school... at the ball park... at work... at the mall, it’s going to finally catch on,” said Noiseux. “So repetition is key.”
Companies have reported improved recycling rates. RIRRC has distributed these labels to public schools, state agencies and municipalities. This summer, it’ll share these free labels with the private sector.