The Future of Our Trash: Local Leaders Warn of Potential Waste Crisis in CT

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You put your trash at the curb and someone comes to take it away. But local elected officials warn that it’s not magic and there are fewer places to take our trash in Connecticut. 

“We are really in a waste management crisis. Not only in the state of Connecticut, but in the nation,” Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said. 

Connecticut’s municipal officials like Knickerbocker are calling on the state to collaborate with local leaders to come up with a incentives and a plan for trash and recycling. 

“The problem is that the costs are increasing because the waste to energy plant either becoming obsolete or nearing its lifespan end,” Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis said. 

Right now the state has decided it won’t help pay for upgrades to the trash-to-energy facility in Hartford, which means the state may have to start trucking its trash out of state. Last July Gov. Ned Lamont declined a request from the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority for $300 million to keep this facility going. 

If the plant is closed: “more than likely a lot of it would have to exit the state and be dumped in surrounding states,” said Rich Quelle, chief engineer at the plant. 

Quelle said there is a benefit to keeping it running.

“With the combustion of upwards of 500,000 tons of municipal solid waste we generate about 250 to 275,000 megawatts of power which would supply probably about 30 to 30,000 homes annually,” Quelle explained. 

But even that benefit isn’t enough to get the Lamont administration to provide funding. 

“The idea of just doing another hundreds of millions of dollars at this old trash-to-energy plant which nobody has really upgraded in quite some time just didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Lamont said at a press conference in July. 

But the alternatives are equally unpleasant, according to Francis and Knickerbocker.

“Not that people ignored it and not that people didn’t try. It’s just that the solution was almost unmanageable,” Francis said. 

She said it’s a shame there wasn’t a plan already in place to deal with this crisis. 

“There’s no silver bullet. There’s no one solution that’s going to fix everything. There are multiple things that need to happen in both of those waste streams,” Knickerbocker said.

Knickerbocker said he doesn’t have the answer. But he knows: “the vast majority of Connecticut residents really want to do the right thing. They are concerned about recycling and waste management.” 

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