Color naming

Rhode Island Senate votes to harm communities of color

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Senate has passed S2788 Sub A, which would exempt “advanced recycling” from state solid waste laws and regulations.

The legislation limits advanced recycling facilities to a one-mile radius of a state facility and includes Johnston Central Landfill and the Port of Providence as possible locations.

The advanced recycling process, known as pyrolysis, burns plastics at high temperatures. The result is dirty oil, which is used to make plastics. Plastics inside, plastics outside.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior scientist Veena Singla reported that emissions from pyrolysis plants include a cocktail of substances, such as benzene and lead, which are known to cause cancer, which harm to reproduction and fetal development, which can lead to cardiovascular problems. and other ailments.

The Port of Providence is surrounded by minority neighborhoods. Again, communities of color will likely be harmed by the siting of a polluting factory.

The site of a possible pyrolysis plant in the port of Providence would be surrounded by minority neighborhoods. (Graphic by Roger Warburton/Data by EJScreen)

Pyrolysis emits toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases, creates hazardous waste, pollutes waterways and burdens nearby communities. According to the NRDC, none of the factories in the United States, including Brightmark’s in Ashley, Indiana, which they call a “plastics renewal facility”, have been able to prove that there are benefits from chemical recycling. .

Singla explained that pyrolysis plants do not meet the definition of recycling. Factories are creating “a ‘recycling’ mirage to allay public concerns about increased plastic use”. It is simply a greenwashing term created by the plastics industry.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency, cited by the NRDC, reported that a single plant in Tigard, Oregon, produced 500,000 pounds of hazardous waste in 2019.

According to the NRDC, “The global plastic crisis is spiraling out of control with huge consequences for our health and environment, and it deserves real solutions. We learned long ago that burning our waste was not one of them. Chemical recycling is just an old concept with a new name.

Roger Warburton, Ph.D., is a resident of Newport. He can be contacted at [email protected]


US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (version 2.0). 2019 release 2.0. Retrieved: 02-04-2022, from

Demographic data is from the US Census Bureau American Community 5-year Summary Survey (ACS).

The Rhode Island Census Tract Shapefiles are US Census Bureau cartographic boundary files.