Food Scrap Program in Meriden Could Provide New Waste Disposal Model for Connecticut

"Making Meriden Green" will allow 1,000 residents to take part in a composting program for free.

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A pilot program in Meriden aims to make sustainability the way of the future. It is the first of its kind in Connecticut and it gives people who live in the city the chance to compost food waste for free.

Those running the program called “Making Meriden Green,” say it not only helps the environment, but can also save Connecticut cities a lot of money.

We all have leftovers, but not all garbage is created equal. When food goes bad, it shouldn’t just hit the trash, but a lot of times it does.

“Over 20 percent of the waste that we have that people put in the trash is mostly organic matter,” George Hall, a senior in high school and student volunteer said.

That is why Meriden is launching “Making Meriden Green.” It is the first free composting program for residents of a Connecticut city, funded by a $40,000 grant from The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“We know that we're faced facing a waste disposal crisis here in the state of Connecticut,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “That means that municipalities are going to increasingly have to rely on exporting their waste out of state to find a place that will accept it for disposal unless we're able to accelerate innovative approaches like what Meriden is doing here.”

Eight student volunteers will help roll out the program, handing out trash bags to people that are clients of HQ Dumpsters. The green bags are for food scraps and the orange are for trash.

“You can throw them all in the same container,” Xavier Febles, a senior and student volunteer said.

One-thousand households are participating in the pilot program. Each one will get 16 green bags and 32 orange bags, which is a four-month supply. How they do will set the tone for how the program does in other cities across the state.

“Meriden is the first city to be trying out this program. If this program is successful, we can reduce waste and trash all over Connecticut,” Hall said.

The program aims to engage citizens that wouldn’t typically compost.

“If you just had people that volunteered, you'd be, you know, preaching to the choir,” Meriden Director of Public Works Howard Weissberg said. “We want to gauge, how does this work across the board?”

Once residents partake, HQ Dumpsters will haul the organic waste to Quantum Biopower in Southington, where it will be composted or turned into renewable energy.

The program launches February 2nd and runs four months. DEEP says there is already interest in a similar program from several municipalities because it will cut down on trash hauling prices and lower the cost of living for residents.

“The big challenge is changing habits and getting our residents into the habit of separating their food scraps the same way they do their recycling,” Dykes said.

The student volunteers see the potential.

“I think it’s for a better future,” Febles said.

That, along with lasting impact for their generation.

“We want to create a town that people want to come back and live in,” Hall said. “We want to create a sustainable city and a city that is clean, and cleanliness in a city that you would want to be proud to live in.”

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