Christine Stuart photo
Community leaders decorated their t-shirts with plastic water bottles Tuesday to protest the expansion of the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority’s recycling facility in Hartford. The protesters lead by Dr. Mark Mitchell, president of the Connecticut Environmental Justice Network, demanded the state trash agency increase its support of recycling in the city, which has one of the state’s lowest recycling rates in the state, before it increases the amount of recycling it brings into Hartford. The Capitol City’s recycling rate is about 7 percent, Mitchell said. In comparison Norwalk has a recycling rate at over 35 percent and Manchester’s recycling rate is over 46 percent, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
“CRRA provides very little support for recycling in Hartford,” Mitchell said. And it’s the reason why he has intervened in the CRRA’s attempt to obtain a permit from the DEP for the recycling facility expansion.CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher said the agency would love to see Hartford increase its recycling rates because when that happens everyone wins. He said while well-intentioned the protestors may wanted to redirect their demands to the city of Hartford instead, since CRRA has nothing to do with curbside garbage removal. Kathleen Henry, one of the protestors at Tuesday’s demonstration, said “A lot of people in the north end don’t know about recycling.” So much gets dumped out onto the streets where there’s no place to put it, she said. And those who do know what to recycle need bigger bins.Mitchell said the landlords in the city don’t want to recycle because the trash haulers charge extra for the service. CRRA does not charge tipping fees for recyclable materials. Martha Kelly, a south end resident at the protest, said the city needs to invest in large containers for recycled materials, like the garbage containers, to put out on the sidewalks. Henry agreed. She said she’d be happy to join in the education effort, but that CRRA, a quasi-public state agency that doesn’t have to pay taxes to the city, has to do its part too. Nonnenmacher said the CRRA Trash Museum in Hartford, adjacent to the recycling facility, is a perfect example of what the agency is doing to get the message out. He said 20,000 to 25,000 people tour the museum each year. The museum allows visitors a peak at the container processing facility where they can follow bottles, cans, and plastic containers from the tipping floor, through the automated sorting equipment. Christine Stuart photo
Nonnenmacher said the reason CRRA’s board of directors approved the deal last year with FCR, Inc., a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, is because the company agreed to build the $6 million expansion, which it will hand back to the agency after 10 years, and it will pay CRRA $2.7 million a year to deliver recyclables to the facility. What does this mean? It means an increase in the amount and variety of materials the member towns can now recycle, which means less trash. Ideally the tipping fees for the municipal solid waste market would be driven down by an increase in recycling and with it would come a decrease in residential property taxes. Tipping fees for garbage removal are figured into local residential property tax bills.The bad news is that the state has never been able to recycle more than 30 percent of its municipal solid waste stream. The state’s goal, according to the DEP, was to reduce the waste stream by 40 percent by the year 2000. The public hearing on the recycling center expansion is Sept. 5, 5:30 p.m. at the DEP offices located at 79 Elm Street in Hartford.