- The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) recently announced that it will no longer accept bags of shredded paper in single-stream recycling collection because of high contamination rates at the state-run material recovery facility.
- Though some bags of the material make it through sorting lines intact, many others break open and contaminate other commodities in the process. RIRRC said this ban will "greatly improve the quality" of the 450 tons of material it processes at the MRF each day.
- Businesses are expected to arrange for their own shredding needs, but residents that want to recycle their confidential papers will now have more options to do so. RIRRC already accepts shredded paper at a drop-off site and it will now host four shredding days per year as well.
According to RIRRC, shredded paper wasn't seen as an issue when the state switched to single-stream in 2012 but tighter commodity prices have since changed that equation. The common practice of double bagging this material has also increased costs because bags often get stuck in MRF equipment, which increases safety risks when employees have to cut them out. The rise of cart-based recycling programs has decreased the need for any recyclables to be bagged, and multiple cities have been emphasizing this approach to cut down on MRF issues.
The announcement also ties into RIRRC's broader efforts to encourage more diversion. This summer, tip fees will be increasing at the state-run landfill for the first time in 25 years. Officials hope this will lead to more activity at RIRRC's MRF — where tipping is free for municipalities — and encourage struggling municipalities such as Providence to improve their recycling programs.
Though shredded paper is still accepted by a number of other cities, it's not uncommon to see it banned either. The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) — which is working to achieve a 70% paper recovery rate by 2020 — encourages residents to shred their documents sparingly because the process shortens paper fibers and reduces recycling opportunities.