Worthington Industries, Inc. is applauding the passage of legislation in Connecticut that requires an industry-led, convenient and operationally efficient stewardship recycling program for certain residential gas cylinders. The law applies to cylinders commonly used for camping, grilling, DIY projects and celebrations requiring portable propane and butane, hand-held torches and portable helium. In Connecticut, industry management of the reclamation process stands to deliver up to $200,000 in state savings annually, in addition to environmental benefits from the removal of these recyclable cylinders from the municipal solid waste system.
As part of this first-of-its-kind program in the United States, Worthington Industries and other residential gas cylinder producers will coordinate arrangements with qualified companies to pick up, transport and recycle cylinders that are sold at retail locations in Connecticut. The program also includes consumer education about the proper end-of-life management of residential gas cylinders and locations of collection sites. Public Act No. 22-27 (sHB 5142) requires plans to be submitted by July 1, 2023 and implemented by Oct. 1, 2025.
Connecticut State Senate Ranking Member of the Environment Committee Craig Miner (R-Litchfield) and House Environment Committee Chair Representative Joseph P. Gresko (D-Stratford) were leading voices in favor of the legislation, which represents modifications to the now-defunct House Bill 6386. After a collaborative research and review process led by Worthington Industries in conjunction with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority (HRRA), Sen. Miner and Rep. Gresko championed the benefits of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiative for residents, government and the environment.
“As a longtime sportsman and outdoor enthusiast, I know the benefit of gas cylinders, but I also know we need a collection and recycling system to ensure proper disposal,” said Sen. Miner. “I challenged the industry to come up with a solution, and Worthington Industries stepped up to the task. After months of diligent efforts and conversations with all stakeholders, Worthington presented a plan that will provide consumers with a convenient collection system while minimizing the impact on retailers and municipal solid waste facilities.”
“Through an open and informed dialogue, we accomplished all our desired objectives regarding the discarding of residential gas cylinders in our communities,” said Rep. Gresko. “This legislation establishes a process for free, convenient and accessible statewide collection, minimizes public sector involvement and enables producers to be innovative in their approach while ensuring safe handling after use and recycling of the products.” Rep. Gresko continued, “While there was an exceptional amount of work to achieve this outcome, we know the real work is ahead for producers in implementing this program and helping our residents easily follow best practices. Based on my experiences with Worthington Industries throughout this process, I know this program will serve Connecticut well and should be a model for other states to follow in pursuit of a sustainable future.”
The scope of PA 22-27 includes “nonrefillable and refillable cylinders with flammable pressurized gas, helium or carbon dioxide, with between 0.5- and 50-pounds water capacity, that is supplied to a consumer for personal, family or household use.” It covers residential gas cylinders discarded at these locations: political subdivisions of the state, transfer stations, material recovery facilities, drop offs or events, disposal facilities, state parks or private campgrounds, or other approved entities that are part of an approved gas cylinder stewardship plan.
Jennifer Heaton-Jones, executive director of HRRA, provided valuable perspectives representing waste management service providers that collect and process pressurized cylinders. The HRRA is the regional, governmental, solid waste and recycling authority for the Housatonic Valley municipalities in western Connecticut.
“This approach focuses on outcomes, provides for proper oversight and enforcement, and establishes a timeline for successful implementation,” Heaton-Jones said. “I believe implementation of stewardship programs and EPR policies positively motivate producers to consider total lifecycle costs and environmental impacts in their product design and management. I am grateful for the active listening, engagement and innovation of several entities, including Worthington Industries, throughout this process.”
As a leading U.S.-based cylinder manufacturer, Worthington Industries is committed to working with the state of Connecticut, Sen. Miner, Rep. Gresko, Heaton-Jones and others to support the effective management of discarded residential gas cylinders. Annie Lane, director of product sustainability for Worthington Industries’ Consumer Products business, noted that the first step was collaboratively discussing possible solutions based on substantiated facts and lessons learned from similar programs.
“We believed that in working together we could develop an innovative solution that would be convenient for consumers and operationally efficient for all parties while delivering sustainability benefits,” said Lane. “One of the best practice examples we considered has been in place for several years in Ontario, Canada. Among many results of the Ontario program, one that particularly appealed to all of us was the opportunity for brand owners to leverage their knowledge of the products and their customers to increase participation, capture rates and performance. We look forward to working toward improvements in Connecticut.”
For five months in 2021, Worthington Industries obtained stakeholder input throughout Connecticut to understand the current management of residential gas cylinders and seek feedback on a potential approach. Stakeholder groups included local governments, retailers, waste management service providers, waste-to-energy facilities, propane distributors, state parks and private campgrounds, colleges and state government.
Worthington Industries then delivered a comprehensive report and recommendation to the Joint Standing Environment Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly on Jan. 17, 2022. The Environment Committee unanimously approved the revised bill on March 4, the House passed the bill on April 13 and the Senate passed it on May 2. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill into law on May 10, 2022.
Lane concluded, “We are looking forward to getting started in Connecticut and replicating this collaborative and innovative approach in other states to solve this recycling challenge. We believe this proven formula includes maintaining a focus on outcomes, ensuring a level playing field for producers and similar products, providing for proper oversight and enforcement, and establishing an achievable timeline to ensure a successful implementation.”