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West Hartford Launches New Recycling Campaign

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Photo credit: Ronni Newton
Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Some items are obviously recyclable (newspapers, no. 1 and 2 plastic bottles), but others are questionable and often get tossed into the trash. Even the most dedicated recyclers often have questions, and the answers are not always easy to find. 

The Town of West Hartford wants to encourage residents to keep as much material out of the waste stream as possible, and is beginning the new year with a reinvigorated focus on recycling.

Prior to the introduction of automated recycling West Hartford’s recycling rate was only 22 percent according to Environmental Services Manager David Gabriele from the West Hartford Public Works Department. It now averages about 33 percent of what is discarded. “We’re at a ‘feel good’ rate in town,” Gabriele said, but it could be much better.

The state has a target of diverting 58 percent of material from the solid waste disposal stream by 2024. It’s not a law, but a goal set in 2006 by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Solid Waste Management Plan. The federal EPA’s goal is to divert 50 percent from the stream by 2015.

The volume of recycling currently generated through West Hartford's residential and municipal collection (town-owned buildings) is approaching 8,000 tons on an annual basis. Gabriele and Public Works Director John Phillips hope to see that increase that to 9,000 tons in FY 2015, and are aiming to reach the 50 percent rate as soon as possible.

West Hartford pays about $91,000 per month in service costs for pick-up of recycling. The town receives a rebate from ReCommunity Recycling, under the contract signed in Nov. 2012, of between $7.50 and $15.00 per ton of recycled materials, depending on the market rates. Gabriele said the average has been about $12.00 since the contract began.

It costs the town – and therefore the taxpayers – when something that could be recycled is thrown away. If it’s recycled, not only are tipping fees reduced but West Hartford actually gets money back.

Gabriele and Phillips believe that the first step toward increasing recycling is providing residents with clear information about what can and can’t be recycled, as well as other pertinent information. The new recycling campaign will do just that. The cost of outreach and education is being paid through a grant that the town received from its waste disposal contractor, Covanta Energy Corporation. 

As the new "recycling promoter" for the town, I know that there is so much misinformation among West Hartford residents about what can and can’t be recycled. I thought I personally was a really good recycler, but every time I meet with someone at Public Works and ask a question I realize that I have been throwing way too much into the trash. 

I'm excited about this project because not only is recycling important for the environment, but it makes financial sense, too. But we need to do it correctly. My goal is to provide clear information and communicate with residents on a regular basis so that they are repeatedly reminded and motivated. 

Town Council member Leon Davidoff, who is chairman of the Community Planning & Physical Services Committee, believes it’s really important for the town to increase its recycling rates and become a leader among towns in the region. “Here’s a way that the taxpayers can raise more income for themselves. It’s a win-win,” he said.

“I think we’ll succeed because West Hartford as a community is forward-thinking, progressive, and environmentally-conscious,” said Davidoff. “We just need to put a few more things in place to make it easier for people.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patty Swanson February 05, 2014 at 10:53 AM
post some photos periodically of things that people would think are questionable but that are recyclable...a picture speaks a thousand words!
Patti Sheehan Albee February 05, 2014 at 11:04 AM
you can request a second FREE recycling bin, can't remember if I called the town or Paines directly. I have had it for about 2 years. I thought I heard at some point that we were going have a weekly recycle pickup??
Betsy Udal February 05, 2014 at 11:12 AM
We need our recycling emptied weekly! It is always overflowing and we end up throwing stuff out because we can't catch up, especially in November and December.
Jerome Lavalley February 05, 2014 at 11:40 AM
Weekly pickup would be better than 2 bins. We are also constantly topping off the neighbors' bins too.
LizF February 05, 2014 at 12:03 PM
All of us could probably use a weekly pick-up, esp if we're going to be recycling even more items.
Ronni Zimbler Newton February 05, 2014 at 12:33 PM
I'm loving all of these comments! The need for another bin and/or weekly pickup has been brought up by many residents. Public Works is aware of it and these issues will definitely be addressed in future posts. In the meantime, please keep doing your best, "nest" cans and plastic containers and crush boxes if possible to make things fit! And Patty, I will definitely be sharing images of items that should and should not be recycled!
amystery726 February 06, 2014 at 07:38 AM
A link to the full list of recyclables?
Lew Block February 06, 2014 at 10:43 AM
We can't make it two weeks without the blue bin overflowing with recyclables. And I don't want a second blue can, no room for it. What we need is an every week recyclable pickup, and an every other week trash pickup. Otherwise, we end up throwing recyclables in the regular trash because there's no space in the blue can.
katesimonsays February 06, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Completely agree that weekly recycling pick up is needed!
Lisa Petersen February 07, 2014 at 08:50 AM
We are a family of 3 adults and our recycling and trash bins are never full before pickup. The recycling one used to be full all the time before we severely limited our use of single serve drink containers. We don't use single serve drink containers (use refillable instead) and we buy fresh which has less packaging. We compost food trash. We do recycle all we can though (even toilet paper tubes). Maybe in addition to having more pickup, changing habits might result in fewer recyclables and less garbage as well. I'm curious to hear what makes up the bulk of the recycling that causes full bins.
free2be February 07, 2014 at 08:51 AM
I agree too that weekly pick up for recycling is needed. Ours is spilling over after 2 weeks, and our garbage can is only half full (maybe not even) every week. Great to hear that others are committed to recycling, but am surprised the rate is only at about 33% currently.
Denise Reed February 07, 2014 at 08:54 AM
Does anyone know if it's possible to request a free 2nd garbage can? Trying to clean out an entire house...
Ronni Zimbler Newton February 07, 2014 at 09:09 AM
Keep the great comments coming!! Does anyone know a family who doesn't recycle much? I'd love to get their perspective, too. (My email is ronninewton17@gmail.com.) I like Lisa's question about what is really filling up your recycling bins. I have a 15-year-old son, so lots of gallon milk jugs fill mine! Anyone else? And Denise, you can get a second trash barrel but there is a charge. Call Public Works at (860) 561-8100 to see if they have any ideas. If you have bulky waste (items too large to fit in a barrel), a special pick-up can be scheduled.
Barbara Anthony February 07, 2014 at 02:27 PM
I hope you would also encourage WH residents to put their cans in their garages or behind a nice fence. It doesn't look very nice to drive around and see the cans overflowing in driveways. West Hartford Fence Co makes a nice enclosure!!
Lisa Petersen February 07, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Ronnie - along with the recycling info, perhaps there can be some conversation about what can be done to remove the waste entirely - for example, buying fresh so there's essentially no packaging, using a glass bottle with the rubber overlay instead of buying a case of water bottles, etc. In general using fresh is healthier than foods in cans or plastics (lots of recent articles about all the health hazards of those).
Lisa Petersen February 07, 2014 at 02:45 PM
Denise - there are also organizations who will pick up furniture you don't want. There was recently an article about A Hand Up here on patch. Also if you have sheets and towels, animal shelters would love to have them. Also on Facebook there's a West Hartford Reuse and Recycle group where items change hands all the time - sometimes sold and sometimes for free. Maybe that will help you too especially if you can give it away instead of having to pay to have it in a dumpster or taken by the town. Good luck with your clean out- it's a tough job!
free2be February 07, 2014 at 04:34 PM
To answer Lisa's question about what's in the recycle bins, in my family of 4, we do not typically drink from cans (and when we do, my husband returns them to a store). We throw very little it seems into the garbage. We recycle boxes (snacks, cereal), TP rolls, jugs (not many though), cardboard boxes (that takes up the most space even though we break it down. I get a lot of bulk from Whole Foods, and I typically don't like to reuse plastic containers over and over, so I do recycle those after washing once or twice (I'm concerned about the plastic leaching into foods). I do try to reuse those when I go to the store. I think we do a good job keeping are carbon footprint relatively low, but our bin is full every week.
free2be February 07, 2014 at 04:37 PM
I just want to say to Barbara, that not everyone can afford a fence enclosure (or want one) for their trash, or have the space to put it anywhere other than their driveway. It seems a silly concern of hers to worry what's in other peoples' driveways. It also makes West Hartford sound like a snobbish town in which to live (that was my interpretation at least from what she said).
Bernard Pelletier February 08, 2014 at 03:07 PM
My wife and I fight over recycling - what goes in and what doesn't. I wonder if the WH could have a "Trash Court" - where residents would be able to send a question or photo to the "judge" and get a ruling. My current question - I buy Starbucks bagged coffee - and it is half plastic and half foil (on the inside). Does that go in? It is great to see so many interested people working to solve a problem!!
Laurie S. February 08, 2014 at 03:44 PM
Lisa mentioned the "West Hartford Reuse and Recycle group" on Facebook. That's the second time I've heard about it, but can't find it under that name. Can someone provide a link or exact name please? I'm already a member of Sustainable West Hartford (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SustainableWestHartford/) and FreeCycle.org (https://www.freecycle.org/), and HIGHLY recommend everyone join BOTH! :-) And this recyclables "guide" is currently what's up on the Town of WH recycling FAQs page: http://www.westhartford.org/westhartford/living_here/town_departments/public_works/uploads/WestHartfordAcceptableMaterialsGirl11x8_5V4.pdf
Laurie S. February 08, 2014 at 03:49 PM
There's also TerraCycle.org !!!! Whiting Lane School recycles snack/chip bags, juice pouches, cereal bags/box liners, triggers from cleaning supply bottles, mascara and chapstick tubes, and many other Cleaning Supply Packages and Personal Care/Health Packaging items from those "brigades"! Plus, their Girl Scout troop is collecting dried out magic markers! Collect them and drop them off at Whiting Lane! Keep these items out of landfills AND help the school raise money through TerraCycle.org!
Lisa Petersen February 09, 2014 at 07:29 AM
Here's the link for West Hartford Reduce Reuse Recycle - it's a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/306546652812825/
Laurie S. February 09, 2014 at 05:36 PM
Thanks, Lisa!!!!!
Laurie S. February 09, 2014 at 05:41 PM
I'm getting an error message and I can't find it as a search. :-( The error message says: "This content is currently unavailable The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page."
Ronni Zimbler Newton February 10, 2014 at 02:14 PM
All great comments! And thanks for the recommendations about some Facebook pages which seem to be really good resources, although I can't find the West Hartford Reduce Reuse Recycle either. Bernard - I am going to be doing exactly what you suggest with regular "Recycle This, Trash That" tips. I will bring your question about the coffee bags to Public Works. I throw the bags away but now recycle the coffee containers from Trader Joes, but the bags may be recyclable!
Patti Sheehan Albee February 10, 2014 at 02:35 PM
I think you aren't finding the WH reduce, reuse, recycle group because it is a "secret" group. A friend can invite you be e-mail, but you can' request to join. You can put a plea out to your fb friends and see if any of them are a part of it?
Ronni Zimbler Newton February 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Bernard - I have the answer from Public Works regarding the coffee bags. Unfortunately they are not recyclable in our system, but there is a company that will recycle them (along with dog food bags and other materials) and pay you 10 cents each. Follow this link for details: http://trashebags.com/upcycle-your-discards/ ~Ronni
Brian T February 22, 2014 at 10:25 PM
In my opinion weekly pickup is not economically feasible. Do the math. To quote from the above article: "West Hartford pays about $91,000 per month in service costs for pick-up of recycling." A weekly pickup schedule would likely double that cost (1.1 million extra per year to taxpayers). The dollar amount we recoup from our recyclables is a drop in the bucket (no pun intended). Not to mention a bunch of extra trucks driving around and polluting the air. A better solution is to cut up your boxes, flatten your plastics and cans, and pack your blue barrel properly. Use your neighbors' barrels too (we can all work together), and isn't it about time West Hartford actually created a true recycling center? Most towns offer far better service than West Hartford when it comes to recycling and bulk waste.
Bernard Pelletier March 26, 2014 at 02:21 PM
Thank you Ronni for the advice on the Starbuck's bags - I just saw it now.
Bernard Pelletier March 26, 2014 at 02:22 PM
One other thought is to encourage town merchants to use recyclable packaging. I say encourage - not force. But I think that might get some traction - -- even if stores asked before bagging….

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