Trash Treasures

Located in Connecticut, two museums are focusing on educating the surrounding communities about trash and recycling through interactive displays and instructional programs.

What are the CRRA Trash Museum and the CRRA Garbage Museum and where are they located?: The CRRA (Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority) Trash Museum, adjacent to a regional recycling processing center in Hartford, CT, opened in 1993 as a means of promoting curbside recycling, which had just been introduced in Connecticut. CRRA has operated the Trash Museum since its inception, and through March 2011 more than 387,000 people have participated in its educational programs, either by coming to the museum or our bringing programs to them at schools, community events and other activities.

The CRRA Garbage Museum, adjacent to a regional recycling processing center in Stratford, CT opened in 1995 as an outgrowth of the region’s educational efforts. Beginning in 1993, tours of the recycling processing center were offered, but as the tours grew more popular, educational exhibits were added in office space adjacent to the processing center. CRRA took over operation of the Garbage Museum in 1997. Through March 2011, more than 342,000 people have taken part in its educational programs.

Each museum is staffed by three educators, with the CRRA education supervisor managing both facilities.

What can visitors expect to find there when visiting? What is the difference between the Trash Museum and the Garbage Museum? The CRRA Trash Museum and the CRRA Garbage Museum are similar in theme and purpose, but each has its own unique exhibits. The main attraction at the CRRA Garbage Museum is Trash-o-saurus, a dinosaur made from a ton of trash, which is how much trash an average person throws away in a year. Guests can walk through a giant compost pile, meet resident compost worms and discover how much energy is saved just by recycling. The Museum also offers a skybox view of recyclables being delivered, sorted and processed at the adjacent recycling processing center. Its art gallery frequently displays the works of professional artists whose media are recycled, re-used and “found” objects.

The CRRA Trash Museum also gives visitors an up-close look at CRRA’s single-stream recycling sorting center. The Museum also features exhibits detailing the problems of old-fashioned methods of disposal, such as the town dump, as well as solutions, including explanations of source reduction, recycling, trash-to-energy and landfills. There’s also a mural created by Higganum, CT artist Ted Esselstyn, depicting the history of trash management from pre-historic times to today. Also on display is the amount of trash one person made in an entire year at Sustainable Dave’s exhibit ( The Trash Museum has just added a series of works created by University of Hartford students on climate change.  

What kind of ongoing educational programs do the museums offer its visitors?
Both museums offer special programs throughout the year, including Scout Days, Family Fun Days, Earth Day events and America Recycles Day events. This year, on April 30, the Garbage Museum threw a birthday party for Trash-o-saurus, who turned 16. We can tailor our programs to people of all ages. All of our education programs are aligned with the Connecticut state science curriculum standards, so a trip to the Trash Museum or a visit from the Garbage Museum is more than just an hour or two away from the classroom. In fact, many school districts’ curricula specify a trip to one of our museums.

Do the museums “go out” into the community and participate in community events, etc.?
We can and do take just about all our programs on the road, to school assemblies, corporate environmental group meetings, civic organizations, fairs (all the way up to the Eastern States Exposition) and just about any other place or group of people interested in the environment.

We’re also completing a two-year program funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services to provide targeted recycling education in five school districts across the state and to develop and offer teacher workshops so teachers can bring our curriculum into their classrooms.

What is your most successful/popular educational program you offer?
I’m not sure I can identify our most popular program but two that seem to generate the biggest “wows” are watching the machinery in our recycling processing center and vermiculture—home indoor composting using red wiggler worms that, when done properly, reduces trash or takes the load off your garbage disposal and makes garden fertilizer without any foul odors.

How many visitors do the museums get each year? Peak time? In 2010, the Trash Museum attracted 25,791 participants and the Garbage Museum 30,708. Our all-time best year was 2008, with 27,302 and 32,219 participants respectively. Generally speaking, we’re a little slower in June and September, but July through August 2010 was our busiest summer on record with a total of 8,855 participants. The Garbage Museum is the 12th most popular tourism and cultural attraction in south central Connecticut as ranked by Business New Haven.

What awards have the two museums received?
Our education programs have received the Beth Brown Boettner Award for Outstanding Public Education from the National Recycling Coalition. But we feel our most significant awards come from the people who return year after year.

Any future plans for the two museums?:We’re always looking for new ways to engage our communities in sustainability. Our partnerships with professional artists are developing, and we think there’s a lot of potential to attract new audiences with art. We’re also about to launch two new computer learning tools—the CT Recycl-o-meter and the CT Recycl-o-matic—which show people how much energy they conserve just by recycling, reinforcing our theme of sustainability.

For more information about the Trash Museum, call (860) 757-7765, or visit or their Facebook page at

For more information about the Garbage Museum, call (203) 381-9571, or visit or their Facebook page at

For a complete list of museum programs, visit

For more information about the CRRA, call (860) 757-7700, e-mail [email protected] or visit

Programs like these depend on the support of environmentally-minded people and organizations. If you, your company or your organization or foundation would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help us continue our work, contact either museum or visit