The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Better ways to manage waste
City poised to support Extended Producer Responsibility
“To avoid many of these scenarios, we have to change, rethink our waste and manage it differently. EPR is one very important tool in the tool box.” Middletown Recycling Coordinator Kim O’Rourke
MIDDLETOWN — The Common Council is set to consider a resolution in support of federal and state passage of Extended Producer Responsibility legislation for all forms of packaging.
It would require manufacturers to take responsibility for “end-of-life management.”
In Middletown, it costs $88 a ton to dispose of waste, Recycling Coordinator Kim O’Rourke has said.
Through Blue Earth, food scraps are charged at $84.85 per ton.
With the closing of the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority in Hartford, even more waste will be shipped out of state, she said Thursday.
“Costs will go up,” she warned. “Waste will be transported further away. More will be landfilled.”
Connecticut waste will be subject to other state regulations, she said.
“To avoid many of these scenari
os, we have to change, rethink our waste and manage it differently. EPR is one very important tool in the tool box,” O’Rourke added.
“It’s the concept that, when it comes to recycling and waste disposal, not all the impetus to reduce waste, and to literally pay the bill for disposal, not all of that should be on the consumer and rate payer,” Mayor Ben Florsheim said. “The burden on who finishes the bottle of water has to decide what to do with it. It’s on them to know what the appropriate thing is.”
It’s an approach that has gotten Connecticut and other states into “trouble,” because regulations are changing constantly, Florsheim said.
The state and municipalities have been working on EPR legislation for many years, the recycling coordinator said. Currently, there are EPR laws for mattresses, paint and electronics.
In 2013, Connecticut became the first state to pass extended producer responsibility legislation for mattresses.
Two states, Maine and Oregon, have already instituted such programs.
“We all know it is difficult to pass good legislation with many different interests involved. How sorely is it needed? The DEEP has been talking about the concerns with the future trash disposal crisis,” O’Rourke said.
Waste has changed so much over the last few decades, she said.
“It is so much more complicated,” the recycling coordinator said. “There’s new packaging all the time. It’s more expensive and complicated to manage. Some of it is toxic. Some is very hard to manage. Some is changing constantly. Often I get calls from people about how to recycle something that I don’t even know what it is.”
“It’s not a sustainable system. We need the producers to be involved, financially, in managing the waste they produce,” she said.
There is no long-term plan to deal with the impact on climate change, cost of living, and other issues, the
“Some of the cost needs to be on the people producing the wasteful products, on the manufacturers who are making bottled water (for example) and who can think about using sustainable, less costly and easily recyclable materials in packaging,” Florsheim said.
It’s about trying to strike an appropriate balance where people don’t have to play a guessing game about how much it’s going to cost, and what is recyclable and what’s not, he added.
“In Europe and Canada, producers of packaging have taken some or all responsibility for the management of post-consumer packaging, and, as a result, have greatly increased recycling rates and infrastructure investments, thereby creating jobs and reducing taxpayer costs,” the city resolution says.
Also, when China adjusted its import policies in 2017, it did so to “severely restrict the contaminated and poorly sorted recyclables it would accept.”
As a result, the United States began shipping its plastic packaging to parts of Southeast Asia and Africa, which have “poor recycling infrastructure.”
California just passed a law that forbids producers to put arrows on any product that is not recyclable, O’Rourke said. The arrows can be confusing.
There’s still more such work to be done.
“EPR will bring in other partners to help correct some of these problems, offer financial stability and increase the educational efforts in the state,” O’Rourke said. “EPR for mattresses, paint and e-waste has saved the city thousands of dollars and EPR for packaging would do the same.”
Solving the problem will require input from a range of people.
“Waste management is one of those things that we have to be innovative about, and this is something that would be not just innovative, but also more just than our current setup, and more environmentally friendly, too,” Florsheim said.
Monday’s Common Council meeting takes place at 7 p.m., both virtually and in council chambers at 245 deKoven Drive.
The RecycleCT Wizard website has a list of items that can be recycled. There is also an app.
For information, visit middletownct.gov and portal.ct.gov/DEEP.