Talking trash: Gov. Lamont pushes waste cut plan, but opponents raise a stink about cost
A food fight could break out over Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to address Connecticut’s growing garbage crisis. Opponents are raising a stink about the cost.
The problems began last summer, when Hartford’s massive MIRA waste incinerator shut down. Now, the state has to send almost half of its trash – about 860,000 tons per year – to Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
DEEP said 20% of that garbage is food scraps that could be recycled instead.
“Why would we want to be sending our valuable food scraps – you know, paying a premium to ship them to Pennsylvania?” asked DEEP commissioner Katie Dykes.
To address the crisis, Lamont is proposing a bill to dramatically expand food recycling. To illustrate the point, he toured Bright Feeds on Wednesday, a Berlin start-up that can convert up to 450 tons of food each day.
“Everything turns into an animal feed,” said CEO Jonathan Fife. “It's a supplement that replaces corn and soy.”
Lamont’s bill would make food recycling more convenient for homes and restaurants, but some communities are balking at the cost. Waste fees would more than triple in some cases. Despite the “modest” increase, Lamont said communities will actually save money because they’re shipping less garbage.
“There's obviously a lot of pushback from the incumbents in life; that's usually what happens in life,” he told reporters. “But I think we're going to make some progress.”
Dykes said a new pilot program is already saving three communities money. In just nine weeks, she said Ansonia, West Haven and Deep River have already seen a 12-17% drop in trash.
Lamont also wants major shippers like Amazon to pitch in too. They would have to create reuse programs for boxes and packing materials, but some recyclers worry they’ll get crowded out of the market.
DEEP pushed back in a statement.
“This is false,” it reads. “Connecticut would retain its existing infrastructure, including the haulers and facilities that collect and process recyclable materials.”
Even with all these changes, the state will still need new ways to stash trash. How to do that – and where -- is an open question.
“Good luck trying to locate a landfill in anyone's municipality. I think we've gotten beyond that,” said state Rep. Joe Gresko (D-Stratford), co-chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee.
Gresko said his committee will make changes to Lamont’s plan, but he expects it to advance to the full Connecticut House of Representatives this month.
At Bright Feeds, Fife is just happy to be part of the solution.
“That could take a huge bite out of getting food waste from going into landfills and incinerators,” he said. “It's such a big problem and it's exciting to hear that it's getting more attention.”