Recycling Pilot Program Preparing for Launch
A new recycling and waste management program is coming to Deep River in 2023, and town officials are working to help educate residents on the pilot program.
The town hosted a recycling workshop with members of the Deep River Sustainable CT Committee and representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) at Town Hall on Dec. 6. Committee member Lenore Grunko and DEEP representatives Sherill Baldwin and Emma MacDonald discussed diverse methods of recycling and waste management practices. Deep River is one of more than 15 towns that received grants to participate in a state-granted food scraps pilot program in 2023. The program's goal is the assuage the financial and environmental impacts arising from increasingly expensive and harmful waste practices that have added to create a state-wide waste crisis.
“We took on this grant because waste is overwhelming. We have to reduce the amount of garbage that we generate,” Grunko told attendees, several of who also came from Chester and Essex. Both towns' sustainability committees were co-sponsors of the workshop as well.
According to Grunko and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, the pilot program will likely begin early in February 2023. The program will mark a slight shift in required waste disposal practices for residents who use the town's Transfer Station. Most notably, residents who utilize the transfer station will be asked to use different bags for household waste and food scraps, ranging from meat and dairy products to paper towels and napkins. Other waste materials will be shipped to an aerobic digester in Southington to be converted to clean energy and compost, according to Grunko.
Grunko said more education on the pilot program and its goals will be unveiled as the Town nears closer to its initiation.
The workshop got underway with a presentation by Emma MacDonald, an environmental analyst with DEEP, on the current state of waste distribution and disposal in Connecticut, and the day-to-day sustainability practices that Deep River residents can practice that go beyond “reduce, reuse, recycle.” MacDonald began with how waste disposal practices should adhere to a "solid-reduce hierarchy."
“When we talk about sustainability or eco-friendliness, recycling is often the first thing that comes to people’s minds, because it was what we were taught in kindergarten; it’s what we learned growing up,” MacDonald said. “But it’s only one tool in our sustainable materials management. And there are actually many other tools that we want to use before we end up moving on to recycling.”
MacDonald took workshop attendees through the three stages of the hierarchy model, which starts with waste prevention and reuse practices. Some items do not need to be immediately used or can be reused multiple times before it is necessary to recycle or compost them.
The multifaceted nature of waste practices continued with a recycling-specific hierarchical system called the "zero-waste hierarchy," a seven-step consumer-perspective model which again presents the broader scope of recycling.
“This approach is more holistic and covers more of the issue,” said MacDonald.
The DEEP analyst went through several recommendations that Deep River residents, as consumers, could utilize to refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, and repurpose items before eventual recycling. These include picking up new habits such as making grocery lists, which can lessen the chance of purchasing ultimately unused items, freezing foodstuff before they go bad, and drinking from refillable water bottles and mugs.
“It’s just being creative and trying to divert your waste at the highest level possible,” she said.
Following MacDonald’s recommendation, Sherill Baldwin of DEEP discussed a number of recycling practice trends, initiatives and laws undertaken by various muncipalities over the years, and how individuals and families can be more mindful consumers in understanding what is recyclable and what is not. One example included understanding that not all products with the universal triangular recycling logo can be disposed of in their marketed fashion.
“So many things have arrows, and so many things have the potential to be recycled, but that doesn’t mean they are acceptable,” Baldwin said. “There’s a difference between what is recyclable and what is acceptable. When we’re talking about plastics, think about that everything is a container. Nothing has really changed since the day we had bottles and cans in one bin, and paper in another. It’s just that manufacturers have come up with new products, and they confuse us.”
Baldwin ended the workshop with a quiz for attendees, holding up various items and asking whether they should be recycled or composted as trash. With numerous questions inquired and support given, many workshop attendees found the session helpful and informative.
Further information on how certain pieces of waste should be properly recycled or disposed of is available on the Committee’s page on the town’s website at the tab, “Can I Recycle It.” Users can search for items in the search bar and will be given their best option and instructions on how to safely discard materials. The application is also available for download on mobile phones under the name “RecycleCT Wizard.”
Baldwin reminded workshop attendees that given the many variables and concerns surrounding sustainability and non-eco-friendly practices, the residents of Deep River now have the opportunity to join other municipalities in exercising better long-term practices when it comes to reducing unnecessary waste and going through the two hierarchical models as often as possible.
“We are in a very important stage in the recycling process, but it’s only the beginning.”