Solutions to state waste problems can come at the municipal level

By Elizabeth Reinhart / • 02/23/2021 4:30 PM EST

With the cost of waste disposal increasing dramatically each year, the towns of Chester, Deep River and Essex are striving to find more sustainable disposal practices. All three cities are now members of the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM). Chester agreed to sign the most recently, at his February 10 board meeting.

The coalition, led by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and more than 75 municipalities, has worked since September to find ways to reduce and manage waste statewide.

A series of coalition recommendations were finalized in mid-January, which offer “system reliability, environmental sustainability and fiscal predictability,” according to a Jan. 12 press release issued by DEEP.


The focus on reliability and predictability with these new measures comes at a time of transition for the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), which operates the regional waste-to-energy plant in Hartford. All three cities have a service agreement with MIRA.

After the state last year rejected MIRA’s plan of operations, which sought $ 330 million in state grants to help repair and modernize its aging facilities, the state agency virtually public has revealed that it will convert its facilities into a transfer station.

This means that an increased amount of state waste would be sent for out-of-state disposal, most likely to landfills. In 2016, 100,000 tonnes per year of municipal solid waste (MSW) was sent for out-of-state disposal. In 2018, it was around 400,000 tonnes of DSM, according to the CCSMM.

“Left unchecked, residents and city officials can expect dumping charges to increase at the state’s remaining waste-to-energy facilities, along with rates for landfill outside of the state. the State ”, according to the press release.

DEEP officials also said landfilling means “unpredictable cost increases” for cities and businesses “as they compete for transport and landfill capacity”.

MIRA President and CEO Thomas Kirk said via email with the Courier that “to avoid landfill in other states, Connecticut should invest in the best and cleanest options available. These are recycling and energy recovery.

He went on to say, “Unfortunately at present the state has made no commitment to invest in advanced waste for energy disposal, so [we] will have to rely on less desirable, less reliable and less environmentally preferable landfills in the western and southern states. “

Kirk has targeted June 2022 as a timeline for when these changes will occur at MIRA, claiming that “waste and recycling [currently] accepted [at the facility] will not change ”and adding that“ the price is to be determined, but will remain “at cost”.

The MIRA tipping charge for Chester, Deep River and Essex is $ 91 per tonne of MSW until July 1, 2021, according to Kirk, and is subject to change each fiscal year.

Food waste

Almost a quarter, 22.3%, or 520,000 tonnes, of the state’s total solid waste consists of food, according to DEEP’s 2015 statewide waste characterization study .

Diverting this type of waste and reusing it into something useful is seen by many state and local officials as an important step in reducing the amount of waste in the state.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman announced at the February 17 board meeting that the town’s transfer station would begin accepting leftover food from residents free of charge.

The city has partnered with Hartford’s Blue Earth Compost, a food waste collection service, which transports food waste to an anaerobic digestion facility in Southington. Food waste is converted into methane and then used as a form of energy.

“The state is going to make a major effort to reduce the flow of waste and there is no better way to take compostable material, other than in your garden if you want to do it,” said Needleman.

Converting food waste into biogas “is a great way to create energy without… burning fossil fuels,” he added.

In addition to diverting food waste, CCSMM recommended supporting extended producer responsibility programs, especially for materials such as tires and hard-to-recycle gas cylinders, and waste counting or pricing. ‘unity.

Melissa C. Keyes