Recycling benefit to become an expense

The recycling bins at the Wilton Transfer Station on Mather Road. — Jeannette Ross/Hearst Connecticut Media
The recycling bins at the Wilton Transfer Station on Mather Road. — Jeannette Ross/Hearst Connecticut Media

Connecticut’s recycling market has collapsed and Wilton is feeling the pinch. Recyclables, which were once a source of revenue for the town, are going to be a sizable expense. Wilton will soon have to pay approximately $100,000 to handle its recyclables.
“Beginning July 1, Wilton will be experiencing an $85-per-ton swing in the cost of processing recyclables, going from a revenue source to a $65-per-ton expense,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
Chris Burney, director of public works and facilities, discussed the situation at the town’s budget presentation to the Board of Finance. “Every town is dealing with this,” Burney said. “Wilton used to get credit for recyclables, but now it has to pay for them. The city of Stamford had an $800,000 swing, it’s a real problem,” he said.
The cause of the recyclable market failure is China’s recent refusal to accept recycled materials with half a percent or more contamination. Such items should be put in the trash and not recycled, according to a report by the Connecticut Post.
Recycling is mandated by law in Connecticut — meaning residents, businesses, nonprofits, and all public and private agencies and institutions must recycle.
Wilton practices single-stream recycling, which is a collection system that mixes all recyclable paper fibers and containers together. Residents who have a vehicle sticker may take recyclables to the Wilton Transfer Station for free.
To mitigate the new expense for recyclables, the town is conducting a study to see if it would make sense to regionalize Wilton’s transfer station services with the town of Weston.
“We need everyone’s involvement, including the state’s, to deal with the increasing volumes of waste and the associated increasing costs,” said Vanderslice.
She advises residents to reuse items as much as possible before disposing of them and educate themselves as to what items are recyclable and what items should be disposed of in other ways.
She recommends residents view the website to learn what’s in and out for recycling. The interactive website allows users to type the name of a waste item and it will explain how to recycle or dispose of it.
Plastic bags
Plastic bags are a big recycling item, and the proliferation of single-use plastic shopping bags has come under fire for environmental reasons. State lawmakers are considering legislation to prohibit or phase out their use by retailers.
Westport and Greenwich have gotten a jump on the state and have instituted their own single-use plastic shopping bag bans. Stamford has a ban that will take effect in April.
“Wilton is focused on reducing waste through increased reuse and recycling, with the emphasis on reuse,” Vanderslice said.
To that end, she and Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin recently hosted a meeting with members of Wilton Go Green and the business community to discuss efforts to increase reuse awareness.
One of the topics the group discussed was how to address plastic bags and whether to enforce a plastic bag ordinance. In Wilton, such an ordinance would require a town meeting vote, Vanderslice said.
“Virtually all the communities which have adopted plastic bag ordinances, have not done so through a town meeting vote,” she said.
As such, before taking this issue to a town meeting, she said the public needs education and an opportunity for discussion on the issue.
For now, the group is closely watching the progress of plastic bag bills being considered by the legislature. “The benefits of addressing plastic bags and other non-reusable plastics on a statewide basis include a consistent approach, no retailers or suppliers will be put at a disadvantage versus others, and it will allow for greater impact,” Vanderslice said.
On Saturday, March 23, residents can learn more about reduction, reuse, and recycling at Wilton Go Green’s second Annual Zero Waste Faire being held at the Wilton High School Field House, from 11 to 4. The event will feature a broad range of interactive exhibits to raise awareness of zero-waste living.