New Haven expands recycling program

Since the August overhaul of New Haven’s recycling program, the curbside recycling rate for the Westville neighborhood has soared from 11 to almost 30 percent.

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School, Mayor John DeStefano challenged a group of fifth grade students to continue recycling. The conference, which discussed the New Haven program and recycling in general, was organized by City Hall, the Office of Sustainability and City Environmental Planner Giovanni Zinn’05. The city hopes the end result of the recycling reform will be a more efficient and cost-effective trash system, but the effort still has far to go.

At the Mauro-Sheridan School on Wednesday, DeStefano encouraged students who live in the Hill, West Haven, and other neighborhoods to take part in a new citywide recycling contest. The neighborhood with the highest recycling rate by the end of January will win new smaller brown trash “toters” as part of the recycling program. The new toters are smaller plastic trash bins for residents to leave on the sidewalk for the weekly New Haven trash pickup.

The Director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, Christine Eppstein Tang, said her office is working on a campaign to publicize the new initiative and, as a first step, Each household in the city will receive aninformational flyer describing the program. Community Management Teams, an branch of the mayor’s office, and neighborhood groups are also helping to advertise the program. Smuts said city officials expect residents to recycle at even higher levels as the program expands.

Most New Haven residents currently use blue 96-gallon toters for weekly curbside trash collection and 18-gallon plastic bins for their recycling, Zinn said. But as part of the expansion of the recycling program in Westville, and eventually every neighborhood in New Haven, the large blue toters, formerly for trash, are now used solely for recycling. The city distributed new 48-gallon brown toters to residents for non-recyclable waste.

Tang said residents of neighborhoods that still use the old recycling system have been asking when they will receive the brown toters.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts ’01 said using the larger containers for recycling and smaller containers for trash encourages people to recycle more, which costs less for the city. New Haven will save $103,000 annually from the decrease in non-recyclable refuse due to the smaller amount of trash collected, he added, and the new brown bins distributed to residents will only cost $20,000 annually.

The city originally planned to partner with RecycleBank, a company that partners with city to allow residents to receive shopping discounts for recycling, to distribute the new bins in each of the five refuse collection districts at the same time, Tang said. But in March, RecycleBank had to pull out of a ten-year contract with the city because it did not have sufficient financing and New Haven officials faced a dilemma about the future of the recycling program.

“The city had to choose between doing nothing at all or rolling out the bins one neighborhood at a time,” Tang said. Westville, home to seven thousand residents including most of the city west of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, already had the highest recycling rate so it was the first neighborhood to receive the new bins Smuts added.

Single-stream recycling is another key part of New Haven’s recycling overhaul. As of last winter, all residents, even those who still use the 18-gallon bins for their recycling, no longer have to separate their paper, plastic, metal and glass for curbside pickup.

At the Willimantic Waste processing facility, all these materials are sorted using optical scanners, screens that sort items by density and, in the case of metals, eddy current sorters.

At the end of the process, recycled materials are packaged into bales to be resold and reused said New Haven’s city website.

New Haven spends $87.50 per ton of garbage and $36.80 per ton of recycling. Single-stream systems do have initial start-up costs but in the long run they tend to increase participation in municipal recycling programs according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection recycling report.

Connecticut is aiming for a statewide recycling rate of 58 percent by 2024.

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