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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.

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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