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Solving a problem

The Lakeville Journal Co. Editorial

"It’s a climate change problem, of course, because all that trash needs a whole lot of fuel to move it. It’s a social justice problem, because the trash ends up in poorer communities, and it’s an economic and financial problem because it’s expensive to move all that stuff. The good news is, there is something we can do about it.”

These were the comments of Richard Schlesinger, former CBS news correspondent, who led an expert panel discussion at the Cornwall Library on Saturday, Earth Day.

By some estimates, Connecticut produces approximately 500,000 tons of food waste annually. It is either shipped to out-of-state landfills or burned in waste-to-energy plants. Gov. Ned Lamont wants to do something about the state’s waste management  and has proposed waste-disposal and recycling legislation — Bill 6664 — that would, among many things, increase the collection of residential food waste for reuse.

Our news pages have chronicled a growing interest in composting on the part of towns and residents in the Northwest Corner and in Dutchess County.  McEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton has been composting at Coleman Station Road since 1987, as reported by reporter Deborah Maier in The Millerton News last week.

According to Saturday’s  Cornwall panel, about 40 percent of the garbage sent out of the state could be composted. At McEnroe’s, a big source of its thousands of cubic yards of collected food waste comes from New York City restaurants.

Last month, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee passed a substitute version of Bill 6664. The changes including removing a fee charged for shipping municipal solid waste out of state, and for shipping to waste-to-energy facilities. But the bill’s measure related to organics-separation requirements, such as separating food scraps from other trash and waste, remains, along with setting rates for recycled content in plastic beverage containers.

New York State figures in the calculus of Bill 6664, which originally contained an Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) provision — a policy requiring manufacturers to take responsibility for their product and packaging through end of life, including disposal. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the start of the year that she would introduce EPR legislation in 2023, after it failed to pass in 2022.

Connecticut’s substitute bill pulls back on the EPR provision of Bill 6664 until four other states in the northeast region — with an aggregate population of 20 million people — enact such consumer packaging stewardship.

Back to financials. Connecticut municipalities pay on average $102 to dispose of every ton of solid waste, according to the CT Mirror. And as Richard Schlesinger noted, it takes a lot of fuel just to move it — six days a week, in the Hudson Valley, 15 tractor trailers filled with waste leave the waste facility in Kingston, bound for a landfill in western New York.

The Earth Day event in Cornwall concluded with a demonstration of the composting process using a repurposed fish tank.
You don’t need much to get started. And, yes, as was demonstrated, there is something we can do about the problem.

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