Recycling isn't just good environmentalism. Reducing waste that would otherwise have to be sorted, sifted and incinerated at the state's waste-to-energy facilities or else shipped to out-of-state landfills is good economics, too.
In releasing an update of the state's Solid Waste Management Plan late last month, state officials made a strong case for expanded recycling. Right now, about 30 percent of the 3.8 million tons of solid waste generated in the state yearly gets recycled. That rate hasn't changed much in five years. But the volume of waste is growing, and in less than 20 years - unless the state gets better at recycling - Connecticut will be burning or shipping another million tons annually.
Officials have mapped out strategies. One would expand the list of items towns must recycle - magazines, food boxes and catalogs, for example. Another would separate out food and related waste from restaurants and commercial cafeterias and convert it into commercial compost or feed for farm animals.
There's also talk about working with manufacturers to recycle cellphones, computers and other electronics - stuff that already accounts for 40 percent of the lead in U.S. landfills. Electronics contain other nasties as well: mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls.
All these strategies have merit. But they'll require some time and study to implement.
Meanwhile, there's one effective and comparatively simple remedy that Connecticut has at hand. Lawmakers should expand the state's bottle bill to include containers for noncarbonated bottled water.
Connecticut's bottle bill, which provides for a 5-cent refund for the return of carbonated beverage containers, was a model when it was enacted in 1978. The law has kept an estimated 20 billion cans and bottles out of the waste stream. It has also dramatically reduced litter on the state's roadsides and in its forests and parks.
But tastes change. Today, people thirst for noncarbonated beverages - especially bottled water. The Container Recycling Institute has reported that 244 million plastic water bottles were sold in Connecticut in 2002.
That's a lot of plastic. By expanding the bottle bill to noncarbonated beverages, the General Assembly would be taking a relatively simple, effective and quick step to reduce waste and litter.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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