Governor Ned Lamont has announced a series of waste management proposals that he will introduce during the 2023 legislative session that address the future of materials and waste management in Connecticut, particularly in light of the decision by the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) to close its waste-to-energy facility in July of 2022 and reduce in-state waste processing capacity. With MIRA closing, the state has a shortfall in disposal capacity that has resulted in an estimated 40% of Connecticut’s waste being shipped out of state for disposal, mostly to landfills. The loss of the MIRA facility means that more than 860,000 tons of municipal solid waste will be shipped out of state annually.
Connecticut’s hauling community has stepped up in the interim to ensure that all residents’ trash is still being picked up. Municipalities and residents have contracts in the near term to make sure this continues, however a large percentage of that waste is being shipped out of state. That is neither fiscally nor environmentally sustainable or responsible in the long run, leaving the state at the mercy of distant communities to accept its waste.
“With MIRA closing its doors, we’re faced with the challenge of what to do with about a third of our waste tonnage, and relying on out-of-state landfills isn’t the answer,” Governor Lamont said. “Rather than a problem, this is an opportunity to reimagine our waste infrastructure and waste capacity in a manner that is in line with our state’s waste diversion goal and our environmental principles, and can also save residents’ money when realized at scale. We’re also going to make sure that the MIRA facility is decommissioned and remediated thoroughly and in keeping with our commitment to the environment and environmental justice.”
Along with releasing a draft update to the state’s Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy that details policies to enable Connecticut to regain “self-sufficiency” in the management of its waste, Governor Lamont today announced that he is proposing the following updates through a combination of diversion programs and infrastructure investment:
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging: Will require the producers of packaging to take responsibility for the waste materials generated from their products, incentivizing greater recyclability and reuse of materials, and relieving municipalities and taxpayers of the burden of paying for their disposal. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) estimates that EPR for packaging materials will save taxpayers an estimated $50 million in recycling expenses and reduce Connecticut’s “self-sufficiency” deficit by up to 190,000 tons annually by 2028 when the program is fully implemented.
- Accelerate organics reuse and diversion: Approximately 41% of what consumers throw away is organic material that could be diverted or recycled, and 22% are food scraps that could be recovered for human use or recycled at a local composting facility or at a large commercial anaerobic digester like the Quantum BioPower digester in Southington. Building on the success of the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management and the Sustainable Materials Management Grant Program, Governor Lamont proposes the following to help accelerate organics reuse and diversion to achieve up to an additional 185,000 tons per year of food waste diverted from the municipal solid waste stream by 2030:
- Provide universal access to source separated food scraps collection for all residents and businesses by 2028; enable municipalities to contract separately for organics collection if so desired.
- Expand the requirements of the Commercial Organics Recycling Law in order to collect food from institutional sectors like hospitality and entertainment; colleges and universities; correctional and rehabilitation facilities; and hospitals and healthcare; and also expand the law to apply to commercial generators that are located within 20 miles of an authorized transfer station or other collection location that collects source separated organic materials, rather than just composting facilities.
- To establish a fee framework to support the state’s waste management programs and infrastructure, Governor Lamont proposes to assess a $5 per ton fee on all waste (MSW and C&D waste) that is destined for landfills and is received at multi-town transfer stations or volume reduction plants, and to raise the $1.50 per fee on waste received at a waste-to-energy facility to $3 per ton to more accurately reflect the state’s materials management priorities and fund programs and investment to increase self-sufficiency.
- Increase recycling: Apply minimum post-consumer recycled (PCR) content standards plastic beverage containers, modeled after California’s requirements for plastic beverage containers. This proposal focuses on plastic beverage containers because of the low recovery rate for plastic as compared to other materials, and because PCR content standards are low compared to other materials like glass and aluminum.
- MIRA: To facilitate proper decommissioning of the MIRA facility, Gov. Lamont proposes the state take a leadership role in reconstituting the MIRA Board, creating a new board under state control that will:
- Continue remediation of the site of the resource recovery facility and the power plant (300 Maxim Road and 100 Reserve Road, Hartford)
- Utilize MIRA reserve funds to help finance site remediation
- Prepare for site redevelopment
- Continue to provide services to municipalities still utilizing MIRA transfer stations until acceptable alternatives become available
- Hire environmental consultants to complete activities such as:
- Hazardous building materials assessment
- Manage disposition of buildings and structure
- Set up process for longer term environmental stewardship
- Utilize existing contracts for consulting services with firms that are well-versed in these projects
The proposals will be included as part of the governor’s package of priorities for the 2023 legislative session that he will present to the Connecticut General Assembly in February. This effort builds on the important work of the Solid Waste Management Working Group established under Special Act 22-11 by proposing a suite of complimentary policies.
“As we’ve learned over the past two years engaging with more than 100 municipalities in the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management process, communities are eager to identify solutions that make sense for their residents, help them gain control of cost, and align with our environmental goals as a state,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “The strategies put forward today put us on that path, and, if implemented at scale, can address much of the capacity lost with MIRA’s closure. They can help municipalities control cost and avoid exposure from exporting solid waste, while also decreasing their carbon footprint. We look forward to engaging with our legislative leaders to help accelerate progress towards a more sustainable, self-sufficient waste future in Connecticut.”
“I’m thankful to Governor Lamont and Commissioner Dykes for approaching the state’s solid waste management problem head-on,” State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said. “The closure of the MIRA South Meadows trash burning facility has placed a significant financial impact on municipalities around Connecticut. I look forward to seeing the draft of the proposed legislation and roadmap and look forward to working with the Energy and Technology Committee and the governor’s administration to chart a course for decades to come.”
“I welcome Governor Lamont’s assistance in charting Connecticut’s path forward in modernizing how we handle our municipal solid waste,” State Representative Joe Gresko (D-Stratford), co-chair of the Environment Committee, said. “Exploring better technology, food waste diversion, and less packaging are great starting points as we pivot from shipping our waste to out-of-state landfills.”
For more information, visit https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2023/01-2023/Governor-Lamont-Announces-2023-Legislative-Proposal-Materials-and-Waste-Management.