Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority tipping floor. (Christine Stuart / photo)

Connecticut lawmakers admitted to ignoring the state’s waste management issues for decades, but were hard pressed to not do anything. 

The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee forwarded a bill to the House that would transfer responsibilities of the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority to the Connecticut Waste Authority, while also focusing on cleaning up the Mid-Connecticut Project that shuttered its doors last July. 

In March, the Environment Committee removed increased fees including a $5-per-ton disposal fee for waste shipped out of state by municipalities. Connecticut towns ship more than 860,000 tons of solid waste across state lines every year, according to the Lamont administration.

Another provision scaled back by the panel is called an “extended producer responsibility,” an initiative designed to make large manufacturers responsible for managing the used-up packaging they generate. Under the committee’s version of the bill, EPR would not take effect until four neighboring states had first adopted the policy. 

The remaining elements of the bill are designed to increase the separation of organic material like food scraps from other trash in order to be recycled for energy or other uses. Another piece would create a Connecticut Waste Authority to pick up where the ​​Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority left off when it closed its Hartford-based facility last year.

Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, spoke about the urgency of the issue, citing the 29 towns that had to ship their waste to Ohio, causing air pollution and other issues. “This bill will continue to be worked on, but at least it is proposing to come up with a new plan,” she said.

She said transporting hundreds of thousands of tons of trash per year to another community is “ not ethical, not efficient, and not cheap.”

Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, and a handful of other committee members, voted against the bill. She said she had heard from environmental groups who are against the measure. 

“I know it’s a work in progress but there’s a lot of work that has to be done,” Santiago said. 

Rep. Eleni Kavros Degraw, D-Avon, said she doesn’t disagree that the bill is a work in progress, but  “we knew about this problem for decades.” 

She said the state has the opportunity to do something now before the problem gets even worse.  

Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said the bill addresses a broader issue of waste management for the entire state, but acknowledged that more work needs to be done. “Even after this bill, we have much more to do,” he said.