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Public Works Boss Pledges: Recycling Not Being Incinerated



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Residents who recycle appropriate items and divert them out of the flow of garbage that is incinerated at the Wheelabrator Bridgeport trash to energy plant are doing the right thing — and in some small way helping to better protect the environment and save the planet, according to Newtown Public Works Director Fred Hurley.

But as far as rumors go, the idea that all Newtown’s recycling is going straight to the incinerator as well is just trash talk, he added.

The DPW chief took the opportunity to counter related misstatements of fact this week that have been circulating about the final destination of virtually all of locally recycled materials.

“The only recyclable materials that are forced to go into the trash-to-energy stream, as far as we can tell locally, are because they are significantly contaminated — primarily with food waste that gets mixed in,” Mr Hurley said.

Newtown has even been proactive in helping to further distance food waste from trash and other recyclables by initiating a food scrap recycling initiative that has been in place since late 2015.

The town invested in bins, “which we provide to households,” for the food scraps, according to DPW program administrator Arlene Miles. Residents can sign up for the free program through hrra.org. Anything left over after cooking can be recycled through this program. Resident can then take their scraps to the transfer station, she said.

Glass is another concern, as entities like China, which previously had been among the top claimants of US recycling waste, have begun to refuse materials that include or are contaminated by glass.

Mr Hurley said glass at Newtown’s municipal level is rarely, if ever, infused throughout loads of recycling to the extent that it is rejected and diverted.

“Food waste getting mixed in is a much bigger problem as far as contaminating recycling,” he said. “We’ve seen these loads come in to the local transfer station, and they get rejected.”

The chain of custody for all local trash and recycling begins with local home and business owners. Whether it is picked up by private contractors or brought and dumped at the Newtown transfer station, it ends up in the possession of the former Winters Brothers — now Oak Ridge Waste & Recycling — and is trucked to their facility in Danbury to be inspected, separated, and disposed.

“From there, it goes to whichever markets will take it,” Mr Hurley said.

Those who truck their own household output to the local transfer station will find a large recycling dumpster where they can deposit appropriate materials, which today includes glass.

Changes Probable

But that is likely to change in the near future. After a successful pilot program that incorporates separate glass recycling versus mixed single stream that rolled out in Bethel, Redding, and Ridgefield, Mr Hurley believes the HRRA is poised to launch a region-wide glass diversion program, which he said will be highly publicized so residents understand it.

While plans for curbside recycling of glass separate from other single stream recycling is not part of the initial roll-out, Mr Hurley believes a system will be devised that is simple and economic enough for residents to participate willingly.

In related news, Oak Ridge vendors will be replacing Wheelabrator personnel running the scales at the Newtown Transfer Station effective July 1. While the transition of vendors for that service will be likely go unnoticed by residential users, the change may necessitate developments to further improve traffic flow.

And in the long run, to encourage as little waste disposal and as much recycling and home food waste mulching as possible, Mr Hurley thinks Connecticut will pursue a “pay as you throw” program. This concept involves residents and certain businesses pre-paying for one of two different sized bags, which can then be filled with qualified trash and tossed or be collected by contract haulers.

While Mr Hurley said the concept has been successfully piloted in several “very small towns where cooperation is easier to achieve, larger towns with multiple hauler vendors may not be as easy to convert to a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“Our ultimate goal here is to maximize efforts that will help, and not hurt, the environment,” he said. “But it also has to be economical and simple for the public to encourage large-scale participation.”

With glass and food waste on average making up 40 percent of all household waste, and the ability locally to recycle or effectively divert that waste from the trash-to-energy stream, it appears Newtown is already ahead of the game in providing effective and logical ways to protect Mother Earth.

According to Newtown Public Works Director Fred Hurley, the idea that all of Newtown’s recycling is going straight to the incinerator as well is just a rumor — although the town's regional trash hauling vendor may be occasionally forced to haul recycling to Bridgeport's trash-to-energy plant (pictured) because it is so severely contaminated with food waste.
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