In June 2014, Rhode Island’s state legislature amended its Refuse Disposal laws (Chapter 23-18.9), passing a food waste ban to take effect on January 1, 2016. This was done with the goal of prolonging the lifespan of the state’s central landfill, as well as the desire to foster a greener local economy based on harnessing the waste for biogas generation or valuable soil amendment. In fact, in 2015 a waste characterization study prepared for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), consultants estimated that 165,100 tons (16 percent of tonnage accepted) could be diverted from the RIRRC Landfill through composting or anaerobic digestion.
Rhode Island’s food waste ban applies only to organic waste producing institutions generating more than 104 tons per year (two tons per week). This includes commercial wholesaler or distributors, industrial food manufacturers or processors, supermarkets, resorts or conference centers, banquet halls, restaurants, educational or religious institutions, research institutions, military installations, prison corporations, hospitals or other medical care institutions, and casinos. These institutions are required to separate their organics at the source, then arrange for materials to be composted, anaerobically digested, or recovered through another approved recycling method (e.g. used for agricultural purposes).
Food waste generators are exempt from recycling their materials if there is not a composting or anaerobic digestion facility within 15 miles of the institution’s location. In addition, generators are exempt if an existing facility with 15 miles lacks the capacity to accept their materials. Institutions are also free to compost their organic waste on-site with their own equipment.
Notably, Rhode Island’s food waste ban contains a distinctive clause. Under subsection (b) of the food waste ban, a waiver may be requested by the institution if the tipping fees of the compost or AD facility within the institution’s fifteen mile radius would cost the institution more than the price of having the waste taken by the RI Resource Recovery Corporation at its going rate for non-contract commercial waste. For fiscal year 2016, the tipping fee at RIRRC for commercial, non-contract waste is $75 per ton.
- Rhode Island Refuse Disposal Statutes
- List of (In)Active Waste Management Facilities in RI (2015)
- RI Department of Environmental Management – Regulation No. 8 “Waste Composting Facilities” (2016)
RI Gen. Law § 23-18.9-7 – Definitions (excerpt)
(15) “Organic waste material” means the organic material portion of the solid waste stream, including, but not limited to, food scraps, food processing residue, and soiled or unrecyclable paper that has been separated from nonorganic material.
(16) “Composting facility” means land, appurtenances, structures, or equipment where organic materials originating from another process or location that have been separated at the point or source of generation from nonorganic material are recovered using a process of accelerated biological decomposition of organic material under controlled aerobic conditions.
(17) “Anaerobic digestion facility” means a facility employing a closed vessel to perform a closed process of accelerated biodegradation of organic materials and/or organic solid wastes into biogas and digestate, using microorganisms under controlled conditions in the absence of oxygen.
(18) “Other authorized recycling method” means:
(i) Recycling organic waste material on site or treating organic waste material via on-site organic treatment equipment permitted pursuant to the general laws or federal law; or
(ii) Diverting organic waste material for agricultural use, including consumption by animals.
(19) “Covered entity” means each commercial food wholesaler or distributor, industrial food manufacturer or processor, supermarket, resort or conference center, banquet hall, restaurant, religious institution, military installation, prison, corporation, hospital or other medical care institution, and casino.
(20) “Covered educational institution” means a higher educational or research institution.
(21) “Covered educational facility” means a building or group of two (2) or more interconnected buildings owned or used by a covered educational institution at which organic waste materials are generated.
RI Gen. Law § 23-18.9-17 – Food waste ban
(a) On and after January 1, 2016, each covered entity and each covered educational institution shall ensure that the organic waste materials that are generated by the covered entity or at the covered educational facility are recycled at an authorized, composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility or by another authorized recycling method if:(1) The covered entity or covered educational facility generates not less than one hundred four (104) tons per year of organic waste material; and(2) The covered entity or covered educational facility is located not more than fifteen (15) miles from an authorized composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility with available capacity to accept such material.(b) A covered entity or covered educational institution may petition the department for a waiver of the requirements of subsection (a) of this section if the tipping fee charged by the Rhode Island resource recovery corporation for non-contract commercial sector waste is less than the fee charged by each composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility located within fifteen (15) miles of the covered entity’s location.
 MSW Consultants, Cascadia Consulting Group, & DSM Environmental Services Inc. 2015. “Rhode Island Solid Waste Characterization Study Final Report – December 31, 2015.” Prepared for: Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. [link]