Rhode Island's waste and recycling system is managed by the The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC). It is the state’s quasi-public agency dedicated to providing the public with environmentally sound programs and facilities to manage solid waste. The agency manages the state’s recycling program, owns and operates the Central Landfill and Materials Recycling Facility in Johnston, Rhode Island.
After a site visit to the RIRRC I came to the conclusion that the existing system in place for recycling in Providence, RI was far better than most in the United States. However this is unknown to most residents.
An educator at the corporation expressed her frustration with the lack of education surrounding the system.
So I began my research by trying to understand the people of Rhode Island Starting with their demographics.
In trying to understand the residents further, I interviewed people waiting for their buses in Kennedy Plaza, and sent out surveys to communities using local facebook groups.
When I asked residents What would make it easier for them to recycle? a lot of the answers gravitated toward "knowing the rules". Taking this as a pain point, I began ideating about how to informally educate residents from all different demographics living in Providence, Rhode Island.
With this in mind I looked at how the public gains information now. The RIRRC presents the information thoroughly on their website and they produce educational videos specific to Rhode Island on youtube.
They have have an education department at the landfill where school groups visit throughout the year. They also bring their programs to local schools who cannot afford to go to the Landfill.
However this hasn't been enough to get the attention of residents.
Bringing the Information to the User
The idea was very simple, Bring the information to the residents. The rules are not complicated, and can be done informally through conversation. So using this informal voice and accompanying illustrations I created a public project in Providence's Kennedy Plaza. These simple rules of recycling was chalk painted in the bus stations to reach a wider working class audience.
This simple gesture alone was enough to get the residents interested and thinking about recycling. It was not looking to demand change, or hold residents accountable, instead it presented the information in a comfortable manner that encouraged conversation. The hashtag called resident participation and allowed for the information to circulate beyond its physical location.
The project was even featured on RIRRC's instagam page. Recycle Across America called this project “genius”.