Greenwich Time

Solving trash crisis can save wildlife

- SCOTT SMITH Scott Smith is director of Communicat­ions for Friends of Animals, based in Darien.

Connecticu­t’s trash crisis demands immediate attention, which is why it’s encouragin­g to see common-sense proposals from both Gov. Ned Lamont (H.B. 6664) and State Rep. Mary Mushinsky (H.B. 5577). Both bills focus on reducing the amount of material that ends up in the solid waste stream by ramping up the separation of food scraps — which make up roughly 22 percent of the state’s garbage — into composting facilities, as well as encouragin­g supermarke­ts and the like to donate surplus food to feed the hungry rather than throw it away.

Not only will this legislatio­n go a long way toward addressing Connecticu­t’s trash crisis, diverting food waste from our garbage stream will also create opportunit­ies to safeguard wildlife throughout the state.

Here’s how: Reduce leftovers as a food source for rats and mice and you alleviate the need to use the poisons that are killing off our hawks, owls, and foxes. Also before the Environmen­t Committee this session is S.B. 962. The bill would ban the use of second-generation anticoagul­ant rodenticid­es, which are lethal to raptors, foxes and other predators who consume rodents that have ingested SGARS. Why kill off the best, most natural solutions to rodent control? One family of barn owls can eat 3,000 rodents in a breeding season.

Similarly, keeping food waste out of residentia­l garbage cans and commercial bins will also reduce unwanted interactio­ns with Connecticu­t’s resurgent black bear population. Friends of Animals, an advocacy group based in Darien, supports legislatio­n such as H.B. 5405, with amendments that would incentiviz­e communitie­s to help homeowners and businesses reduce the availabili­ty of food attractant­s to black bears in areas experienci­ng humanbear conflict.

What lures a wild bear from their home in the woods to your house? The smell of food scraps in your garbage can. A food-waste recycling and composting effort, coupled with a grant program to lower the cost of bear-resistant waste containers, would keep bears wild and people safe.

For these reasons and more, the need to pass legislatio­n aimed at reducing food waste in Connecticu­t is urgent. The state’s landfills are crammed full, particular­ly with food scraps that generate climate-destroying methane gas. Food waste in landfills produces the third largest amount of methane emissions in the United States (15 percent), after petroleum production (30 percent) and animal gas and manure (27 percent), according to the Environmen­tal Protection Agency.

The cost of transporti­ng our excess trash out-of-state is skyrocketi­ng, and exporting our waste problem is as environmen­tally ruinous as it is morally indefensib­le. Worse, Connecticu­t’s instate incinerato­rs, not an ideal powergener­ating solution to start with, are chronicall­y gummed up by all our sodden, rotting food waste.

A transition to recycling surplus food and composting food waste would combat all these problems and more — such as helping improve our state’s declining soil health and biodiversi­ty with scalable amounts of locally produced compost.

Today, 31 percent of food that is grown, shipped or sold is thrown away. Practical solutions to the food-waste crisis are already working in other states: California now requires grocery stores and restaurant­s to recover a large portion of their edible food and donate it to those in need. It also calls on residents to toss unused food into bins they use for other “green” waste, such as lawn clippings and leaves.

New York state kicked off 2022 by requiring businesses making two tons of food waste per week or more to donate edible foods to those in need or to recycle food scraps, with most going to create compost. And in Meriden, a pilot program involving 1,000 households has them putting food waste in plastic bags alongside their regular trash. It is being turned into renewable energy and compost, diverting 2.5 tons of food scraps a month from the waste stream.

These efforts are reasonable; they are attainable. The goal of California’s new state law is to reprocess 75 percent of green waste by 2025, turning it into compost or using it to create biogas, an energy source that is similar to natural gas. In South Korea, only 2 percent of food waste was recycled in 1995. That number is now up to 95 percent.

It’s well past time for Connecticu­t to take a systemic, holistic approach to reducing food waste, to restoring the environmen­t, protecting wildlife, and mitigating the climate. Pass these proposed bills together — reduce food waste and promote composting; ban deadly rodenticid­es; and reduce bearhuman interactio­ns by eliminatin­g food attractant­s. Do that, and the Environmen­t Committee will have given Connecticu­t residents a win-win-win pathway to a better, more sustainabl­e future for all.

 ?? Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? A juvenile red tailed hawk in Milford.
Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticu­t Media A juvenile red tailed hawk in Milford.

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