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Food-to-fertilizer among Connecticut governor’s plans for waste management overhaul

Kay Perkins
Connecticut Public
Katie Dykes, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, estimates that $50 million in revenue could result from placing responsibility for wasteful packaging on manufacturers by shifting incentives and penalties. Dykes spoke at the now-closed Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority trash incineration plant in Hartford.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday that he will add an overhaul of the state’s waste management system to the legislative package he will propose in February. His proposals would tackle the 40% of Connecticut’s waste that is shipped to other states as well as food waste and recycling.

Lamont made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday, alongside other officials involved in drafting the legislation. The conference took place in Hartford outside the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) trash incineration plant that shut down last year when it became more cost-effective to send trash to other states.

“In their day, they served their purpose,” Lamont said of the incinerators. “But this is no longer their day. It’s our job to figure out, in a responsible way, what comes next. We’re thinking right now about what the next 40, 50 years is going to be like.”

The closing of the incinerator prompted many municipalities to shift their business to private-sector waste management companies. Lamont’s proposal would create a “self-sufficient” system by the end of the decade for dealing with waste within Connecticut’s borders, with affordable prices set and subsidized by the state government.

“[This] would provide for more predictable costs for businesses and residents as well as opportunities to increase the sustainability of how we manage our materials,” said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Dykes said the plan is projected to reduce overall waste by 40%.

That’s because it would focus in part on recycling food waste — which makes up 22% of Connecticut’s trash — into fertilizer and fuel. Some municipalities have already been working on this.

“We think the big missing piece here is supporting municipalities to put in place and cover the start-up costs of getting affordable and convenient collection programs,” Dykes said.

The plan would fund these programs by increasing waste collection fees, with additional fees for waste being sent to landfills or out-of-state. Some of this money would be given back to municipalities to fund more sustainable waste collection programs.

“That really is part of what MIRA stands for,” Dykes said. “Forty years of working together to solve these challenging waste issues, collectively.”

The proposal would also place more of the responsibility for wasteful packaging on manufacturers by shifting incentives and penalties — especially with regard to plastics — onto businesses instead of consumers. Dykes said the $50 million estimated revenue from this part of the plan, along with the reduction in waste, would offset any cost to the taxpayer in the long run.

“Benchmarking against mature programs elsewhere, we feel confident that any consumer cost impact would be [negligible],” Dykes said.

Lamont plans to present these proposals as part of a much larger package of legislation in February. That package will also include gun control legislation, tax cuts and free school lunches.

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