HRRA backs pilot glass-separation program
DANBURY — Glass will be recycled separately from the rest of the single-stream materials collected at area transfer stations.
The Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority on Friday endorsed a two-year pilot program — the first of its kind in the state — to collect glass in separate containers at all nine of the region’s transfer stations. The goal is reduce contamination in recycling and make the material more profitable in a stricter market.
While profitable when it’s clean, glass becomes a contaminant as it breaks through the recycling process and attaches to other materials.
“It is a test, but hopefully this won’t be temporary,” said Jennifer Heaton-Jones, the authority’s executive director. “It will become a permanent solution.”
Bethel, Danbury, Kent, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield already have their separate containers or the containers are on the way. New Milford, Bridgewater and New Fairfield still need to get the containers.
The authority’s executive committee is reviewing the contract with Oak Ridge Waste and Recycling, which will bring the glass from the transfer stations to a glass-processing facility.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection needs to approve the pilot program but has given the authority the go-ahead to start separating the glass at the transfer stations. Removing glass from curbside recycling will have to wait until the pilot is approved.
A large reason for the pilot is China’s policy to crack down on what materials it collects and strictly enforce the 0.5 percent contamination rate. This stricter rate has driven up tipping fees because haulers aren’t getting the revenue they used to by selling the materials they collect.
Heaton-Jones said it makes the most sense to do the pilot as a region to eliminate confusion about how different towns are recycling glass and can be exemplars for the state. She said each transfer station will still follow its own permit policies and fees for how materials are recycled.
Some haulers have said they won’t collect the glass separately and residents will have to bring it to their local transfer station on their own, while others have said they would collect it out of single stream at the curb. The authority is offering a half-price tipping fee for the glass brought by haulers, Heaton-Jones said.
Heaton-Jones said municipalities all over the country are tackling how to handle the tighter restrictions and many are doing this by eliminating glass from single stream.
“We didn’t just pull this out of a hat,” she said. “This is happening everywhere.”
Right now, the contamination rate going into Oak Ridge from the region is 10 to 15 percent. Bill Adulet, with the company, said the glass and trash being added to the recycling are the biggest problems and increasing their costs, which is why they requested the authority increase the tipping fee from $55 a ton to $65 a ton at Friday’s meeting.
He said they plan to monitor the recycling and glass to determine a baseline and how the rate changes throughout the pilot. He said it will be important to make sure people are only putting glass in the separate container and not plastic bags too.
“There are companies that have zero contamination,” he said. “They don’t want to hear it. That’s why we have to be so diligent.”
Heaton-Jones said they need to better educate the public on recycling and suggested volunteers look at what people are bringing.
“If the contamination rate is 10-15 percent and the market is less than 1 percent, we have a lot of work to do,” she said.