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04/09/2023 06:26 AM

Taking Sustainability a Step Farther


In an effort for Connecticut to effectively manage its costly trash crisis, Governor Ned Lamont is encouraging leaders of the food scrap industry of the successful role they will play in assuaging the negative future ramifications. The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has since lent its hand to Deep River, leading to the food scraps pilot program that has been in effect since Feb 1.

So far, the program has been described as a success beyond the expectations of the Deep River Sustainable CT Committee. Now, the body presents a new community-wide waste challenge.

The committee is asking voluntary users of the pilot program to take an additional step in understanding sustainable waste management by cleaning and bringing recyclable thin plastic materials to the Town Hall and the Deep River Public Library. These include plastic retail and grocery bags, pallet wrap and stretch film, bubble wrap, Ziploc bags, and bread bags.

“We need to get more garbage...out of the waste stream, and this is one more tentacle of that octopus we can take out,” said Sara Connor, committee chair.

According to Connor, thin plastic materials are commonly placed into garbage waste containers. Part of the problem is that recycling a thin plastic material, which one might assume could be placed in recycling bins, can hurt machines meant to process reusable materials, leaving people “no other option than to throw it out,” she said.

Committee member Lenore Grunko said she understands the confusion that some people might have surrounding thin plastic disposal and that “there’s education that needs to continually go on in order to reduce, or eliminate, the contaminated collection” of thin materials.

The goal of the challenge is for a ceremonial bench, in recognition of meeting the challenge, to be won for the town.

Grunko said it is a “very labor-intensive” task to properly dispose of thin plastic materials, such as using energy to bring them to a plant in Old Saybrook. That is why the committee wants several locations in town where materials can be disposed of.

Currently, drop-off spots for thin plastic materials are now at Town Hall and the Deep River Public Library, but the committee also hopes to have a site at Adam’s Hometown Market and the Transfer Station, the latter of which is adjacent to bag drop-off sites for the food scraps program.

Connor said the long-term goal of the challenge is to eventually have residents of neighboring towns come to Deep River as a place to dispose of their thin plastic waste, further setting an example of the committee’s commitment to sustainable practices in town. That means having “a regional place to bring this stuff, so we’re not relying on groceries stores that participate in the program in various places,” said Connor.

“I think it would be great if the lower Connecticut River Valley had a place where businesses and citizens could bring their thin plastics,” she added.

That vision also includes local businesses being conscious of their waste practices with thin plastics and how often such material reaches their inventory stock.

“Think about businesses that receive their inventory wrapped in plastic. What do they do with their plastic, and do they have a way to recycle that, or do they have to throw it away?” asked Connor.

Connor said the committee hopes that the challenge can be a step in the right direction for Deep River to be a part of that statewide effort.

“I think this is a piece of that piece. How do we get more out that isn’t recyclable in the regular recycling, but can be made into something else? We just need better systems to deal with,” Connor said. “In the end, we really do need to deal with our recycling and our waste better. Either that, or we pay the price, literally. It’s just going to get really expensive.”