In what one official called the biggest change to waste management since the advent of mass recycling in the 1980s, Californians have started separating food scraps from other household waste, on the heels of a similar law that recently took effect in Vermont. In Connecticut, some municipalities are doing it on their own. The vast majority of household waste in Connecticut is burned to produce electricity, but environmental advocates say keeping food out of the garbage will go a long way toward reducing pollution and ash produced by those incinerators. In Connecticut, organic waste makes up about one of every five pounds of garbage, according to a 2015 study published by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The DEEP-led Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management has made food waste one of its four major early initiatives, along with intensified recycling; charging businesses and households on a “pay as you throw” model; and finding ways to encourage manufacturers to include the cost of recycling and waste when pricing products for sale. DEEP has also earmarked a number of grants to municipalities and other organizations for pilot projects to divert food waste to commercial composting facilities.

Connecticut has commercial composting facilities in New Milford, Southington, Ellington and Thompson, which combined are permitted to process about 375,000 tons of agricultural waste and food scraps annually. Several more operate statewide under temporary permits from DEEP adding about 40,000 tons of aggregate capacity each year, with another in the planning stages for North Haven at 75,000 tons.

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Author: Alexander Soule, CT Insider
Image: Matthew Brown, Hearst Connecticut Media