PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ In direct response to the potential development of a medical waste facility in West Warwick, two Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prevent the company from moving forward with its proposal.
MedRecycler is hoping to take up residence at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick, near the East Greenwich town line. The facility plans to use pyrolysis to get rid of the waste, which is when materials are burned at extreme temperatures.
The proposed facility has drawn ire from environmentalists and those who live nearby, many of whom have raised both environmental and health concerns.
While the company is portraying the facility as a “green” project that will generate renewable energy, Kevin Burdis of the Conservation Law Foundation argues that burning waste of any kind is “toxic and climate-damaging.”
“It does not matter if you call it incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or so-called ‘advanced-recycling,'” Burdis said. “All waste burning generates climate-damaging gases along with toxic pollutants like lead, mercury and dioxins.”
In response to those concerns, Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Justine Caldwell drafted legislation that would prevent new high-heat incineration facilities from coming to Rhode Island.
“There are so many unknowns involved in this proposal, all of which have the potential to critically endanger the surrounding communities and the environment,” Caldwell said. “Burning dangerous waste at high temperatures has obvious risks and it undermines our efforts to stop air pollution. We shouldn’t have to be fighting a proposal like this in 2021.”
Attorney General Peter Neronha recently called for the approval process to be suspended until the company proves the technology has been fully vetted.
“There is a lot that is unknown about this new technology,” he said. “We must be satisfied that it is thoroughly tested for its impact on the environment and on the health and safety of facility employees and the general public before it is approved.”
Valverde said they hope the legislation will prevent other communities from going through this in the future.
“Our town has already had to spend a lot of time and money litigating this issue and we don’t want other communities to have to go through the same thing every time one of these facilities is proposed,” Valverde said. “If it’s East Greenwich and West Warwick today, it’ll be your community tomorrow.”