The person running the recycling center at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) considers it a COVID-19 hot spot. 10 employees have tested positive for the virus during the past two months.
The materials recycling facility (MRF) is still accepting, sorting, and shipping recyclable items collected from across the state. The single-stream recycling process is highly automated but still requires about two dozen line workers to remove plastic bags and reroute items.
Seven of the 10 sickened employees have recovered and returned to work, with three still recuperating. The MRF continues to operate while taking a number of steps to reduce additional infections, such as installing plexiglass separators between the sorting stations. RIRRC is also providing third-party transportation to employees to reduce carpooling. Other safety protocols that they have put into place are that employees are subject to daily pre-shift health screenings that include a temperature check and portable restrooms and hand-washing stations have been added.
“While we cannot pinpoint the root cause of the hot spot,” said Joseph Raposa, RIRRC’s executive director, “we are confident we have taken every conceivable step within the MRF to contain any spreading of the disease.”