Eileen Dillon is a junior at the University of Rhode Island pursuing her bachelor’s in marine affairs. She has served as COA’s communications and marketing intern since September 2018, helping to advance and communicate COA’s many programs, projects and initiatives to the general public.
Eileen has helped create and draft digital content for COA’s social media platforms and email marketing campaigns, interviewed and photographed volunteers at beach cleanups, and represented COA at public events. After graduation Eileen hopes to attend law school.
Outside of her classes and internship with COA, Eileen is a member of the Kappa Delta sorority at URI. She is a native of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, but spent many summers in Newport on Aquidneck Island. Eileen’s first memory of the ocean is of her father teaching her how to surf and falling off the surf board. Her surfing skills have since improved, though she prefers to relax at the beach and walk the Cliff Walk.
“I was motivated to intern with COA because I had previously known about all the work the group does on Aquidneck Island, and how people can directly see the impact of their efforts,” says Eileen. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of an organization that makes a difference in the community.
Ever since she was a young child playing in the ocean and on sandy beaches, Sabrina Pereira has always been fascinated by the marine environment and dedicated to protecting it for future generations.
Before working at Clean Ocean Access (COA) Sabrina worked as Fisheries Technician for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, where she interviewed recreational fishermen on their daily fishing trips and identified and measured their catches. She also has prior aquarist and environmental education experience interning at the Rhode Island nonprofit, Save the Bay.
After graduating from the University of Rhode Island (URI) with a dual bachelor’s in applied mathematics and secondary education in 2016, Sabrina worked as a high school mathematics teacher preparing lessons and assessments in college preparatory Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry.
Currently, she is pursuing her master’s in marine affairs from URI. Her graduate research focuses on analyzing Rhode Islanders’ perceptions of marine plastic pollution to better inform municipal and statewide legislation that mitigates plastic inputs into the marine environment.
Sabrina joined Clean Ocean Access in 2018 working on the “Research Needs for Marine Beaches” grant project that aims to advance the understanding of bacteria at high recreational use beaches in Rhode Island. She hopes to make a difference by developing a successful, predictive model for beach managers to determine when to close beaches due to high bacteria concentrations.
By creating this statistical tool in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Health, Sabrina hopes to preserve both the health of Rhode Islanders’ and of Rhode Island’s marine beaches.
Where did you grow up?
I am a Rhode Islander, born and raised. I grew up in the town of Coventry, where I still reside today.
What is your first memory of the ocean?
Having grown up in the Ocean State, I attribute my love for the ocean and conservation to the many, long days spent playing on the beaches of Jamestown and Narragansett with my extended family throughout my childhood.
What is your favorite ocean activity?
On a hot and sunny day I can be found kayaking some of Rhode Island’s pristine bodies of water and with my recent SCUBA certification I hope to start diving deep into these environments to explore marine ecosystems and hopefully some of shipwrecks off of Rhode Island’s coast someday!
What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?
I feel that my early memories spent around the ocean with loved ones helped shape my future motivations and efforts in marine preservation work since I hope to keep the ocean accessible to and safe for all who wish to recreate and subsist around it.
This #GivingTuesday give back to your community and stand up for your local beaches and coastal waters. Improving ocean health starts with each one of us on land, that’s why we need your support. Your generous donations help us keep our beaches clean and our waters safe and accessible for all to enjoy. Whether you enjoy surfing, sailing, eating fresh seafood or lounging on your favorite beach, we all have a stake in a healthy ocean. When you give to COA you are investing in the next generation of ocean stewards who will continue to treasure and take care of our Ocean State. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Since 2006 your generous donations have allowed us to:
Collect more than 115,000 pounds of debris
Monitor 41 watershed locations for safe water quality
Host over 640 coastal cleanups
Record 40,000 community service hours
Educate 10,000 school children
Thank you to all of our supporters, volunteers, and citizen scientists who make our work possible!
On a clear day, standing atop the 250-foot-tall mound of earth, you can see sweeping views of Rhode Island and beyond, from the Superman Building in Providence and the Pell Bridge in Newport to the cooling towers of the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset and the Fall River skyline. The sights are breathtaking, as are the fumes of the surrounding 270-acre landfill, which is where the mountain of trash sits.
In early November, Clean Ocean Access (COA) organized a tour of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) and Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), located off I-295 in Johnston. Twenty participants engaged in a 90-minute interactive tour, during which they learned about the afterlife of trash and the rigorous waste management processes at RIRRC.
“The tour of the RIRRC was both illuminating and concerning. Seeing the operation in person underscored the challenges for the state and all of us individual waste creators,” reflects Susan Maffei Plowden, project director at Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup. “We must pitch in with the outreach and education needed to make all Rhode Islanders part of the solution: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”
Compressed to take up as little space as possible with as little contact to the open-air environment, Rhode Island’s trash is trucked out to the Johnston landfill where it is lined, buried and covered, layer after layer after layer. This process of controlled and isolated disposal ensures that the landfill is sanitary, as opposed to an open dumping ground.
Aboard the tour bus, wide-eyed participants witnessed phase VI of the landfill, the section where trash is actively being dumped and compressed, as well as the Small Vehicle Area (SVA) for special bulky items and the Eco-Depot that houses household hazardous waste. The RIRRC also boasts a robust composting program that processes about 40,000 tons of leaf and yard debris each year. Using an aerobic windrow process, RIRRC turns much of the state’s leaf and yard debris into Class-A compost that is USDA-certified for organic growing and available for purchase. Though, there is much room for improvement when it comes to composting organic material.
Another lifeline for the landfill
As Rhode Island’s main waste disposal site, the Johnston landfill serves all 39 municipalities in the state and processes approximately 450 tons of trash per day. That’s equivalent to about 37 dump trucks daily. In 2015, RIRRC managed a total of 1,048,000 tons of waste, including municipal, industrial/commercial/ institutional (ICI), and construction & demolition waste. This number does not account for the tens of thousands more pounds of trash that end up as marine debris in our coastal waters and beaches. Since 2006, COA has collected over 115,000 pounds of trash from coastal cleanups on Aquidneck Island alone.
“Rhode Islanders absolutely want to see litter and marine debris become a problem of the past,” says Dave McLaughlin, executive director of COA. “Our call to action has been to educate, inspire and empower the community to develop environmentally responsible behaviors. The marine debris epidemic is a solvable problem – and restoring and improving ocean health starts with each of us on land.”
While it’s mindless and pain-free to throw garbage in our trash bins, waste management is certainly not cost-free. Currently, Rhode Island cities and towns pay a disposal fee of $39.50 for each ton of trash delivered to RIRRC. This delivery cost, also known as a tipping fee, is expected to jump to $47 per ton in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which will collectively cost cities and towns $2.2 million. The hike is expected to fund a desperately needed expansion of the landfill in order to keep up with the state’s trash.
Still, increasing tipping fees and a 100-acre addition will not solve the much larger problem facing Rhode Island: the Central Landfill is expected to reach capacity by 2034. That’s right, in a mere fifteen years the Johnston landfill will be completely full, and Rhode Island must seek alternative ways to dispose of its trash.
RIRRC is already thinking about the impending deadline and considering alternatives for waste disposal, which are few and far between:
Find another city/town to build a landfill (no city/town has volunteered)
Attempt to expand the current facility (this would be expensive and require land acquisitions and wetlands relocations)
Ship trash out of state (with prohibitive tipping fees)
Incinerate trash (RI law currently prohibits the burning of garbage)
There is a fifth alternative that is significantly less costly and has the potential to extend the life of the landfill two-fold, while saving taxpayer money and improving the health of our ocean. According to the most recent study published by RIRRC, Rhode Island has the potential to divert half of the total waste entering the landfill. That’s more than 500,000 tons of waste per year!
The study, published in July 2018, finds that more than one-third of Rhode Island’s mixed solid waste (MSW) stream is organic material that could potentially be composted or digested. This includes food waste, leaf and yard debris and compostable paper. In fact, 35 percent of organics currently within the MSW and ICI waste streams can be recovered and diverted from the landfill to an anaerobic digester to produce Grade A compost or renewable energy for the state.
The study indicates that an additional 10 percent of total waste currently being landfilled could potentially be recycled through the MRF, with another 9 percent recycled through drop-offs (Eco-Depot and SVA).
“After going to the RIRRC I realized that recycling really is an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to offset their contribution to the landfill and potentially make some money for the state,” says Ailsa Petrie, 25, and a resident of Providence. “The MRF is a state-of-the-art mixed recycling system that makes recycling much more accessible for consumers; the more we can encourage people to recycle properly, the more we can extend the life of the landfill.”
Though the Johnston landfill is expected to reach capacity by 2034, there is potential to buy more time without the high price tag. By diverting half of the trash in the waste stream, Rhode Island can extend the lifetime of the Central Landfill by another fifteen years through 2049.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
With all this untapped potential to divert food waste, COA is excited to be at the forefront of composting efforts to tackle marine debris in our Ocean State. On December 7th COA is launching Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI, a multi-year initiative funded by 11th Hour Racing that aims to inspire long-lasting environmentally responsible behavior by tackling ocean pollution at its root: on land.
COA will lead the two-year long initiative, bringing together composting efforts across the state in partnership with existing food-waste-diversion groups, including The Compost Plant, Rhodeside Revival and Aquidneck Community Table. The three partners will serve as the boots-on-the-ground team managing all business and residential composting collection and processing, with a focus on Aquidneck Island.
“By allowing people to get personal with their trash, we aim to spark a long-lasting behavior change of never putting food in the trash, always recycling correctly, and taking a serious look at every item we are putting in the waste,” says McLaughlin. “It is our belief that these simple steps will lead to awareness of the low-and-no value materials that enter our lives and rapidly become trash, or worse, ocean pollution.”
I hope to make a difference by using my science background to collect meaningful data that’s accessible to the local community and inspires change.
When he’s not analyzing microplastics and crunching data, Max Kraimer nurtures a love of the deep sea. His fearless curiosity and desire to explore the unknown leads him to the depths of the ocean floor, uncovering shipwrecks and underwater species.
Max holds a Bachelor of Science in marine biology, with a minor on sustainability studies from Roger Williams University. Initially, his undergraduate studies focused on oyster farming and aquaculture. He soon learned about the pervasive problem of plastic pollution and marine debris in our coastal waters, a challenge that affects all trophic levels in the marine environment, from oysters to large mammals.
His research focus at Roger Williams shifted to working with plastic pollution and identifying coastal locations along Narragansett Bay with the most marine debris accumulation. Today, Max is in the unique position to realize his undergraduate work and use his research to solve real-world problems.
Since joining the team in 2017 Max has worked to expand marina trash skimmer technology in Southeast New England by leveraging relationships with residents and local, state and federal officials. He is responsible for maintaining and operating four marina trash skimmers located on Aquidneck Island, with prospects to expand the technology into other cities throughout New England.
“I hope to make a difference by using my science background to collect meaningful data that’s accessible to the local community and inspires change here and now,” says Max, who is also a PADI rescue diver certified in scientific diving by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.
Before coming on board as a marine debris specialist, Max gained experience with COA as an environmental science intern for three consecutive semesters, performing inspections of the marina trash skimmers, leading the weekly AFTER5 cleanups and organizing events.
“The biggest threat to our oceans is the thought that someone else will save them,” says Max, referring to one of his favorite quotes by Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute. “That’s why I think it’s really important for us, as the next generation, to take action and ensure that our coastal waters are healthy so that we can enjoy ocean activities for years to come.”
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in West Hartford, a suburb smack in the middle of Connecticut. With the ocean roughly 50 miles away, I wasn’t readily at the beach and spent most of my weeknights and weekends playing sports with my friends.
What is your first memory of the ocean?
During my childhood, I have an ingrained memory of not necessarily building sand castles but overall just playing in the sand. Digging, throwing it at my sister and the occasional full body burial. The more recent memories I have are the relaxing times on simply laying on the beach catching some rays and letting the oceans energy absorb my unwanted stress.
What is your favorite ocean activity?
Favorite ocean activity would have to be SCUBA diving. I have over 120 logged dives with a max depth of 103 ft. I love swimming among the fish and observing underwater boat wrecks when the water is clear. Living in RI where the visibility rarely extends past 5ft I enjoy crawling on the seafloor observing the abundant life that Narragansett Bay has to offer.
What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?
Through my studies I struggled to find exactly what topic to study in the vast field of marine biology. With an ecosystem as diverse as the ocean, it was hard to really pick just one species to focus on. When I started to learn more about plastic pollution and marine debris it was easy to jump into the study because I realized that this a newly developed, understudied, topic that affects all trophic levels in our oceans. I saw an opportunity in the ocean conservation field and I ran with it. While growing in this rapidly moving field I get more imbedded within ocean conservancy as a whole, and use it as a way to make personal sustainable changes on land.