By Anne Staley
Recycling is a state law in Connecticut. Everyone – from individuals to institutions – is required by law to separate their recyclables from regular trash. But instead of looking on the state as the enforcer, we need to consider it our partner helping us achieve our recycling goals and stay on the right side of the law.
We all must think of ourselves as model citizens of our country and our state. We pay our taxes, we follow rules, we help the community, we show up for jury duty, we never break the law…wait a minute….never break the law? Is that correct now? Before you say, “of course,” consider this: every time you fail to separate your recyclable trash from your solid municipal waste in Connecticut, you’re breaking the law!
Connecticut may be one of the least extensive states in the country, but within its small borders rural areas and tiny towns co-exist in complete harmony with large industrial cities. It’s a state where architectural masterpieces steeped in history make a sharp contrast to modern-day urban skyscrapers. It’s a state where rolling hills, thick forests, horse farms, and white sandy beaches dot the landscape.
Recycling in Connecticut
The way solid trash is disposed in the state of Connecticut has gone an overhaul of sorts over the last couple of decades. A lot of it had to do with the closing of landfills in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of which failed to meet the modern sanitary regulations and posed humongous health hazards.
In an effort to better manage its solid waste, the state adopted a solid waste management hierarchy that laid out first source reduction followed by recycling, composting, waste-to-energy, and finally land filling as the preferred methods to handle trash.
To kickstart the implementation of this hierarchy, the State legislature passed the mandatory recycling laws and identified 9 items to begin with, which could not be disposed with regular trash and had to be recycled.
Over the years, many more items were added to the list of mandatory recyclables. Today, the State boasts of a robust list of items that are required by the law to be recycled including, but not limited to:
- Food and beverage containers made of metal and glass
- Corrugated cardboard, boxboards & chipboards
- Newspapers, magazines & catalogs, office paper
- Electronics, scrap metal, nickel cadmium batteries
- Plastic containers (number 1 and number 2)
- Leaves and grass (to be composted)
In addition to these mandatory recyclables, there’s a whole list of items that can be recycled in Connecticut. But how does recycling happen?
Well the process starts with you – the homeowner, business owner, school, hospital, or any other public, private and non-profit institution – separating recyclables from other municipal solid waste. The recyclables can be left at your curbside for pickup by a private or municipal hauler. You can also take your recyclables to the nearest drop-off center.
Another option is to sell your metal scrap, e-waste and other types of white goods to private recycling companies like Universal Appliance Recycling and SIMS Metal Management. Sims have recycling facilities in Stamford, CT and a couple of other cities in the state.
What happens to your recyclables once they reach the processing centers – private or government-operated? Well, they’re prepared as feedstock to be used by the manufacturing industry and thus return to the eco-system!
Recycling benefits all
According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the state generates close to 4,000,000 tons of solid waste each year. You can consider it trash, but you can also see it as a storehouse of usable and useful materials that helps conserve natural resources as well as energy.
Here are a few facts (from this source) to understand the enormity of the impact that recycling has had in the state of Connecticut.
- Connecticut’s source reduction, reuse, and recycling reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 398,937.82 metric tons of carbon equivalents in a one year period.
- Connecticut’s source reduction, reuse, and recycling saved a total of 7,767,053.19 Million BTUs of energy in 2008. This equals 6.51% of all energy used by industry in the state.
- By recycling 61,071.09 tons of scrap metal and glass in 2008, Connecticut’s recycling efforts reduced the need for 6,893.01 tons of limestone, 45,293.23 tons of iron ore, 25,364.21 tons of coal, 16,143.73 tons of sand, 5,091.48 tons of soda ash, and 1,986.92 tons of feldspar.
Add to that other benefits like reduction in the amount of waste that gets land filled or incinerated, decrease in air and water pollution, and increase in the sustainability of our future generations and you realize that compliance with state laws is not the only reason to recycle!