Solid Waste, Recycling, and Food Waste Diversion Initiative

Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Grants in the SCRCOG Region

SCRCOG will be working with its member municipalities to launch pilot projects under the CT DEEP Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) grant program. As the capacity for waste disposal in Connecticut has decreased significantly given the closure of the Municipal Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) waste-to-energy facility in Hartford, food waste diversion and unit based-pricing (UBP) programs are options to reduce the waste stream and ease the financial burden on municipalities. These projects will involve implementing Unit-Based Pricing (UBP) and Food Waste Diversion pilots to provide data on municipal waste disposal cost reduction strategies. Eight of SCRCOG’s fifteen municipalities advanced to Phase 2 of the SMM grant application process. In order for the municipal pilots to be successful and for SCRCOG to lay a firm foundation for permanent successful programs in as many of its towns as possible, SCRCOG proposes to provide support and assistance of the municipal projects.

The six of the eight SCRCOG municipalities that submitted SMM grant applications were approved for the grant. The SCRCOG municipalities that will be piloting UBP/Food Waste Diversion programs are Hamden, Woodbridge, Guilford, Madison, Meriden, and West Haven. The pilot projects include curbside co-collection of municipal solid waste (MSW) and food waste in different colored bags. After being sorted, the bags containing MSW are hauled to a waste-to-energy facility or out-of-state landfills, while the food waste is hauled to a bio-digester or a composting facility.

SCRCOG’s role will to be identify areas of the pilot programs that can lend themselves to regional solutions, including: coordinated program launch, common instructions and messaging, shared sites for sorting of bags, shared hauling routes and development of regional aerated static pile composting sites at convenient locations created by the conversion of existing municipal brush and leaf composting sites in the SCRCOG region.

Frequently Asked Questions for UBP/Food Waste Diversion Co-Collection Pilot Programs

Is this program permanent?

No. It’s a pilot program. The municipality can cancel it at any time. If it is successful, the municipality can opt to adopt the program for the foreseeable future.

Will I get fined if I don’t sort my food waste?

No. Residents will not be fined if they don’t participate. During the pilot we are providing you with three free bags per week (two orange bags for trash and one green bag for food scraps). Residents should use them as directed in an effort to be fiscally responsible and friendly to the environment.

Won’t my food waste stink or cause problems?

Residents already have food waste in their homes. The pilot will allow residents to divert existing food waste from their trash. We’re just asking residents to put it in a different bag.

How hard will it be to do this?

It should be very easy. You generate the same trash and put it in the same trash cart on the same day of the week. You will get your bags at the same stores where you get trash bags today. The only difference is that we’re asking you to put food waste in a green bag so we can make green energy and compost from it.

Isn’t it difficult to sort my food waste?

Not really. In fact, it’s even easier than recycling. If you could eat it but didn’t, put it in the green bag along with your fruit and vegetable scraps/peels, bones, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells. Otherwise, put it in the orange trash bag.

How much will this cost the municipality?

It won’t cost anything. The municipality is receiving a CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) grant that will pay for everything. The municipality will save money for each pound we move from trash to food scraps.

Where does the municipality get the authority to do this?

In most municipalities, the Charter – or the “Constitution” – gives the municipality the authority to implement this pilot, which is being sponsored and overseen by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). For example, the City West Haven’s Charter authorizes their Public Works Commissioner to make these types of decisions.

What happens if the pilot doesn’t succeed?

Nothing. Food waste will still go into the trash. The pilot can only make things better by helping us make green energy and compost with food scraps, and position us for lower disposal fees.

Why now?

There are a number of reasons we need to move now:

1. This is a one-time Grant opportunity that we are participating with 18 other Connecticut towns, and we all must go together. This grant is available now and may not be available in the future. The window to accept the grant is closing. We won this grant through a competitive process.

2. If we don’t accept state aid now, we will have pay for the costs ourselves if we choose this program in the future.

3. There is a trash crisis in Connecticut and in New England. Shipping trash to Pennsylvania—when we can turn it into green energy and compost here—is costly and bad for the environment.

4. Over 30% of the State’s trash disposal capacity permanently disappeared in July when the incinerator in Hartford closed, leaving 35 towns stranded, having to truck their waste out-of-state to Pennsylvania.

5. The other 70% of trash in Connecticut is burned in old facilities, like the one in Bridgeport that many municipalities use. These could close for the same reason the Hartford incinerator closed (due to old age) making the situation even worse.

6. According to the US EPA the number of landfills has decreased from 6,000 to just over 1,000. This is because no one wants to build one in their home town. Because of this capacity shortfall, the cost to dispose of trash is expected to double in the next few years and costs will continue to rise in a rapid rate.

What if we delay the pilot?

As a region and a State, we have been delaying, which is why we’re at this crisis point. If we delay further, we will miss this grant opportunity, trash costs will increase, and we will have to cut the budget elsewhere or raise taxes to pay to dispose of useable food waste that will end up in out-of-state landfills.

Will Pennsylvania accept our waste?

Perhaps, but there has been legislation introduced in Congress by Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators in the past that would allow receiving states to regulate or tax out-of-state waste, putting further pressure on landfill tipping fees.

What if we don’t make changes?

Trash is expensive and is only getting more expensive—the cost to use the Bridgeport incinerator is expected to increase to $140 per ton in the next few years, doubling what many municipalities pay today. The municipalities do not have a surplus of money to pay these costs. The municipalities will be forced to cut services that residents want in order to ship valuable food waste to Pennsylvania as trash, or raise taxes.

Will this cost me money?

It shouldn’t. The grant is providing three free official bags each week—there will be separate bags for trash and food waste. Most households will only need the free bags provided, but additional official bags can be purchased inexpensively at local stores.

The free official bags provided weekly should more than offset any cost residents might incur during weeks when they have excess trash due to parties or other events. When participating in this program, residents will no longer need to purchase traditional trash bags.

Where do I get the bags?

It depends on the municipality, but primarily residents can purchase bags inexpensively at local supermarkets throughout the community.

How are you making sure the pilot works?

The pilot is designed to address the community’s specific needs. We will be providing outreach to help residents understand the program. Food waste is easy for residents to understand – if you could eat it, put it in the green bag along with your fruit and vegetable scraps/peels, bones, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells. The food waste will also be screened to take out any contaminants that residents throw in the green bag.

How many municipalities are doing this?

18 other cities and towns requested grant funding and are receiving similar grants. The City of Meriden has already completed its first pilot and is planning to implement another round of pilots.

Can I use a garbage disposal on my sink?

Yes, but bear in mind that sending your food waste through the pilot gives it a second life as compost and electricity. Putting food down the drain adds to our sewer plant operating costs.

Why can’t we compost it here?

You can. Residents can compost at home/in their yard on their own.

What if residents have a hardship and can’t participate?

The vast majority of the time, residents will be able to fit their trash in the free bags they are provided. The municipality may make provisions for opting out of the program for people facing hardships.

Where does the food waste go?

For this pilot program, the food waste will be shipped to Quantum Bio-Power in Southington.

Why are bio-digesters cheaper than incinerators?

The cost to tip food waste at bio-digester plants is trending down, and new bio-digesters are being built. The cost to dispose of waste at incinerators is going rapidly up due to reduced capacity in the industry. No one is building new incinerators either. With bio-digesters, there is no costly ash waste to be sent to landfills as there are from incinerators. Bio-digesters make money by converting food waste to renewable natural gas, selling heat or electricity, selling renewable energy tax credits, and selling compost output, as well as tipping fees from users.

Will our hauler want more money?

Haulers always want more money, but this program actually cuts the hauler’s cost, as the transfer station they will be delivering to is a shorter round trip for their trucks. The routes and weight are the same. The hauler has agreed to participate in the pilot.

Who separates the bags?

A State arranged contractor, paid for with the grant, sorts the bags and reloads them into larger trucks, making the process more efficient.