Letters to the Editor 06.05

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    To the Editor of the Providence Eye:

    I was interested in your article about the miserable state of recycling in Providence, which seems to be the worst of any municipality in the state.  I suspect that one reason recycling rates are so low is the fact that Providence (and Rhode Island) has committed itself to “single stream” recycling:  everything is thrown into one barrel together, including plastic, glass, foil, paper, cardboard.  This leaves it to the RI Resource Recovery people to sort out all this stuff into the correct piles, and it also assumes that home-owners have a clear idea about what can go into the recycling barrel and what cannot.  Those mailers that we all receive about what goes into which barrel are specific about what goes into the recycle barrel, and lots of discarded food containers do not.  Anyway, few people really read the numerical plastic designation on plastic containers.

    I believe there is a back-story.  About 20 years ago, RI Resource Recovery Corp. made a very expensive purchase of a single stream sorting machine from Holland, which is supposed to sort the various kinds of recoverable, recyclable trash — and assist the machine operators in sorting this stuff.  If you know anything about the Dutch, you know that they are some of the tidiest people on the face of the earth.  Without a doubt, the Dutch put the right trash into the right barrels, so that a machine like this can do its job effectively.  Americans have no such tradition of tidiness, civic or personal..  So I suspect that this single stream Dutch approach is the wrong one for us.  Tours of the facility in Johnston are available to the public, and you can see the operators desperately pulling inappropriate trash out of the recycling stream as it heads up the conveyor belt.  They are overwhelmed, and no doubt they miss a lot.  That is why they cannot be bothered to deal with trucks from Providence that show huge piles of the wrong recyclables in the recycle loads. (The contamination of American recycling streams is why the Chinese will no longer take American trash for recycling.)

    In Massachusetts, the recycle stream at least separates paper & cardboard from plastic, foil & glass.  It would probably simplify and improve RI recycling if paper was collected separately, although the logistics of the barrels would have to be restructured.   If Providence recycling trucks are being turned away and directed straight to the landfill, the system we have now is hardly better than no recycling at all.

     

    Sincerely,

    John Woolsey

     


     

    To the Editor,

    Miriam Hospital, near my house, is trying to expand. Because we, members of the community, tried to stop the last expansion, the hospital is holding community meetings. I asked if building the new addition would reduce the cost of healthcare, healthcare that is already unaffordable. The hospital folks did not know that answer. But we do. It will raise the cost of healthcare if the hospital expands. The hospital simply will not admit it.

    Having spent much time over the last 15 years looking at the cost of healthcare it does not appear to me that anything going on up at the legislature are going to actually reduce the cost of healthcare. These are bills to increase spending. Not to say small hospitals do not need the money, but increasing reimbursement rates simply cannot reduce the cost of healthcare.

    The only thing that really increases life expectancy, which to me is the only real goal of a healthcare system, is to make sure all Rhode Islanders have great primary care.  Preventing cancer is cheaper than curing it. We have to prevent asthma, as there is no cure other than cleaner air. But we look at cures as healthcare, calling prevention anti-business regulation despite the old saying of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, something truer today than ever. Unfortunately poisoning people is good for business as you not only get to sell stuff that kills, but it also means more healthcare spending. Prevention means we do not sell toxic substances that can spread through the community, and no one needs the cure.

    Until we start to move towards a public health focused system, with great primary care for all, we shall never have affordable healthcare, and of course the private healthcare system will never move towards prevention, so none of the measures being taken by the legislature are likely to actually reduce the cost of healthcare. Which means more people will die unnecessarily simply because healthcare costs too much.

     

    Greg Gerritt