DEEP and City of Meriden Announce Food Scrap Co-Collection Pilot Program For 1,000 Households
First-Of-Its-Kind Local Program Will Demonstrate How Organics Diversion and Waste Reduction Can Help Solve State’s Waste Disposal Crisis
(HARTFORD)— The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the City of Meriden announced today the launch of “Making Meriden Green,” a first-of-its-kind municipal food scrap co-collection pilot program that will demonstrate how waste diversion and reduction solutions can help to address the statewide waste disposal crisis.
The pilot, funded through a $40,000 DEEP Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART) grant, will enroll 1,000 Meriden households in a free four-month program to test an innovative way of separating valuable organic material from other household waste. Residents will be provided with special color-coded bags in which to dispose of food scraps and other organic waste, which will be collected at the same time as trash (co-collection) and transported to Quantum Biopower in Southington, where it will be transformed into renewable energy (biogas) through a process called anaerobic digestion, or composted for use as nutrient-rich soil or fertilizer.
The pilot will provide the city and the State with valuable information on how the process of food scrap co-collection can reduce the amount of trash residents dispose of, at a time when cities and towns have seen municipal solid waste tipping fees increase considerably over the last few years. Thirty-five percent of what State residents throw away is organic material—food scraps and yard waste—that can be diverted from the trash for composting, anaerobic digestion, or processing into animal feed. Diverting organic material can lead to considerable reduction in the amount of waste by weight that ends up on the tipping floor, and in turn, reduced municipal solid waste disposal costs.
Funding for the pilot will cover the purchase of the special color-coded bags for food scrap separation over the four-month duration of the pilot, as well as personnel to sort the bags, and the shipment of food scraps to Quantum Biopower. In addition to DEEP and the City of Meriden, project partners include the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG), HQ Dumpsters (waste hauler), Quantum Biopower, Sustainable Meriden, and WasteZero.
“The City of Meriden is leading the way by launching this pilot at a critical time for Connecticut’s waste system,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “These strategies have been shown to work elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, DEEP is thrilled to support Meriden’s pathbreaking efforts to test this approach for the first time here in Connecticut. DEEP has been working closely with municipalities over the past year through the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM) to scale up sustainable solutions to our state’s waste problem. We look forward to supporting the progress of this pilot as a model for others to replicate, and, if successful, explore at scale.”
"We hope to be a leader for a more sustainable and affordable solid waste disposal option for our residents by partnering with HQ on this project,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati stated. “While this pilot program impacts our outer district units served by private haulers, there may be future opportunities to expand this program to the more than 6,000 properties in our inner district, if successful.”
"We are excited to offer this opportunity as we continue to find ways to reduce costs to our customers and improve the environment,” Jack Perry, owner of HQ Dumpsters said. We hope that this program encourages more involvement from the solid waste community on ways to reduce the overall cost of managing solid waste.”
Connecticut is facing a solid waste disposal crisis, as traditional options for disposing of municipal solid waste (MSW) are diminishing or becoming more expensive. With fewer and rapidly aging disposal options in the state, residents and municipal leaders can expect tipping fees to increase at the remaining in-state waste-to-energy facilities, along with rates for out-of-state landfilling, leaving businesses and towns vulnerable to unpredictable cost increases, and potential long-term liability.
"Cost-effective solid waste collection is very important to our citizens,” Meriden City Manager Tim Coon said. “We have staff members participating, so we will have firsthand knowledge of how it could work. Meriden has an inner district with over 6,000 properties serviced by the trash hauler, and 8,000 tons of trash generated per year, and an outer district with over 12,000 units serviced by private haulers. With tipping fees for MSW disposal seeing 50% to 75% increases over the past couple of years, the economic impact to all residents is significant. Fully implemented programs could help keep costs down.”
“SCRCOG is excited to play a role in coordinating this innovative project," SCRCOG Executive Director Carl Amento said. “It is definitely a logistical challenge to get all the parts moving in the same direction, but a challenge well worth taking on to identify solutions to our state’s waste crisis.”
DEEP has found that food scrap collection programs are most effective when paired with unit-based pricing programs for trash. Unit-based pricing is a method of charging for trash disposal based on the amount disposed, which incentivizes residents to participate in available food scrap collection programs to reduce the amount of trash they pay to throw away. Unit-based pricing is globally recognized as the single most effective action a municipality can take to reduce waste, increase recycling, and reduce climate impact.
“Co-collection of food and trash using color coded bags provides a way for households to source separate food without the additional cost or emissions associated with adding a separate food waste collection route,” said Kristen Brown of WasteZero, a DEEP consultant on waste strategy. “With co-collection food and trash materials are placed in the same cart, sent to a central facility where the color-coded food bags are separated and processed to recover both energy and nutrients for soil.”
HQ Customers who are eligible for participation in the pilot will receive a tag on their trash carts this week and will also receive an email from HQ Dumpsters. On January 22-23, Sustainable Meriden volunteers will be visiting all eligible homes to distribute the bags to be used during the pilot. Volunteers will also provide tips on waste reduction and food scrap recycling and answer residents’ questions. For more information, visit the Meriden co-collection page: www.meridenct.gov/government/departments/public-works/co-collection/