WOONSOCKET — The city has teamed up with a private startup company from Grafton, Mass., in an effort to increase recycling in the downtown business district.
Michael Debroisse, the city's solid waste superintendent, said the city has replaced a half-dozen traditional garbage cans between Market and Depot squares with specialized recycling bins provided by Go Green Solutions.
The bins, which cost the city nothing, are designed with three color-coded deposit slots — green for paper, blue for cans and bottles, black for non-recyclable waste.
The idea, said Debroisse, is to encourage businesses, their patrons, pedestrians and others who circulate in the downtown area to discard more recyclable materials in areas where city workers can easily retrieve them, as they do in residential areas. The traditional bins located throughout the downtown area don't promote that sort of behavior.
“We're going to start with six of the new bins and see how it goes,” says Debroisse. “If it works out well we'll get six more. It's pretty nice when it isn't costing the city a dime.”
The bins offer the city an opportunity not just to increase its recycling footprint, which cuts down on dump fees at the Johnston landfill, but to use its existing manpower more efficiently, said Debroisse.
Public works employees spend too much time in the downtown area cleaning up overspilled trash containers – unsightly piles that often contain household waste from commercial apartment units that doesn't belong in them.
Virtually all the residential trash in the downtown area is outside the city's collection jurisdiction because it's generated by apartment buildings larger than three units. By city ordinance, the owners of this class of property are required to make arrangements to dispose of their tenants' trash, using their own contractors, but some of the garbage invariably finds its way into sidewalk bins and city employees must pick it up.
“It takes a few hours to do,” says Debroisse. “If we minimize the trash and maximize the recycling it's going to be a win-win for the city.”
Maria Guevara-Fisher, founder and president of Go Green Solutions, says the company envisions becoming profitable by selling advertising space on the recycling bins.
Guevara-Fisher, who launched the company about a year ago, said she is still working at building a client base. After Worcester, Mass., Woonsocket is only the second city to sign on to the program. But she said the company is also providing bins for recreational and fundraising events, including this year's installment of the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bicycle trek through the Bay State that's evolved into a major fundraiser for cancer. The city of Lowell, Mass., will also employ the company's recycling bins at its annual municipal festival later this year, she said.
Guevara-Fisher has a master's degree in education and was previously employed with an organization that evaluates the effectiveness of various Head Start educational centers for disadvantaged children. She said she launched Go Green Solutions because there is too little recycling of waste materials generated in public places.
In the age of recycling, she says, “There shouldn't be a garbage can standing alone. We should maximize recycling wherever possible.”
Guevara-Fisher is confident in the long-term sustainability of her business model in an economic climate which has left many local governments strapped for cash. They don't have money to pour into additional recycling programs.
“We get the private sector to come in and support us by selling sponsorships on our recycling bins,” she says. “It's good for the towns and good for Mother Earth.”