© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legislators trying to salvage endangered Lamont recycling plan

Commissioner Katie Dykes and Gov. Ned Lamont, attending a climate action event Wednesday, know their trash-and-recycling bill are in trouble.
Commissioner Katie Dykes and Gov. Ned Lamont, attending a climate action event Wednesday, know their trash-and-recycling bill are in trouble.

The Lamont administration’s ambitious plan to overhaul Connecticut’s waste-disposal and recycling system is being scaled back by legislators in the face of opposition from the industry and some municipalities.

The Democratic co-chairs of the Environment Committee, Rep. Joe Gresko of Stratford and Sen. Rick Lopes of New Britain, said Wednesday the new, narrower focus of House Bill 6664 will be on removing food products from the waste stream and mandating recycled content in packaging.

“The vibe for this bill is it’s on life support,” Gresko said.

A disposal fee of $5 on every ton of municipal solid waste shipped to out of state landfills is gone from the bill, and implementation of “extended producer responsibility,” or EPR, for recycling would be made provisional on its broader acceptance by other states.

“We’re probably going to move some version of the bill out of committee with the understanding that there is a short distance to go to get some things agreed on — and a really long distance to go to get it all agreed on,” Lopes said.

Connecticut already has facilities that can use food waste, which tends to be heavy and can greatly add to disposal tipping fees, to generate natural gas or, in the case of a processing plant Gov. Ned Lamont toured last week, make animal feed. The challenge is to build a system to collect and deliver the food waste.

There is a consensus behind continuing to experiment with ways to remove more food from the waste stream and to mandate manufacturers make greater use of packaging with greater recycled content, Lopes and Gresko said.

An Environment Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until Friday.

“I think the adjustments they’ve made have made it more palatable,” said Sen. Stephen Harding of Brookfield, the ranking Senate Republican on the Environment Committee.

But Harding said he still had doubts about EPR, even if adopted on a provisionals basis.

EPR would shift the cost — and potentially control — of recycling from municipalities to manufacturers. It is used in parts of Canada and Europe, but has yet to be implemented by any state in the U.S.

Connecticut already has EPR for a limited list of products unsuitable for single-stream recycling, such as paint, propane cylinders, electronics and mattresses. Lawmakers said the case has not been made for a broader version that would cover all packaging.

“Our position on EPR is that it should not be a one size fits all approach to every product,” said Tim Phelan, who represents retailers at the state Capitol.

With the support of the governor, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has made a priority of increasing recycling and lessening the current need to export 860,000 tons of municipal solid waste to landfills in Ohio and Pennsylvania every year.

“And DEEP laid out a very comprehensive plan in this bill to do it,” Lopes said. “But there was significant resistance because this this plan would create an awful lot of change in the industry. And sometimes when you have an awful lot of change, it’s hard to accept all at once.”

Waste haulers questioned the need for an all-encompassing version of EPR in a state with widespread single-stream recycling that goes to materials recovery facilities to be sorted and sold for reuse in the manufacturing of new products and packaging

Katie Dykes, the commissioner of DEEP, said there is no evidence EPR has forced an increase in consumer prices in Canada or Europe, but lawmakers and industry representatives are skeptical.

“Ultimately, if you’re going to implement this EPR program universally, absolutely it is going to be baked into the cost of all the consumer goods that you’re going to be purchasing as a resident here in the state,” Harding said.

Aside from the cost issue, Harding said the administration has not made a convincing argument that EPR would increase Connecticut’s already respectable rate of recycling.

“What we really are asking is that this is the solution, or even a significant solution, to the problem?” Harding said.

Lamont and Dykes, who spoke at an event kicking off “climate action week,” were aware of the changes being made, especially dropping the $5 charge that prompted opposition by municipalities, which now pay an average fee of $102 a ton to dispose of waste.

Whether it is climate change or waste disposal, anything that costs money is controversial.

“I know what everybody’s against. Tell me what you’re for, or you just want to pay lip service for the environment, because ‘now’s not quite the right time?’” Lamont said. “I don’t think we’re really asking people to give up a lot.”

Shipping waste out of state is not sustainable over the long run, Lamont said.

“We’re trying to come up with very cost effective alternatives that’s going to save you and your municipality a lot of money for years to come,” he said.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.