MERIDEN — The city of Meriden is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to launch a pilot program, Making Meriden Green. The program will enroll 1,000 Meriden households for four months to test a new way of separating organic material from other forms of waste.
“We see this as a very important project, one that will hopefully pave the way for many other municipalities to come up with a better strategy for managing organics,” said Robert Isner, director of the waste engineering and enforcement division of DEEP.
The program, which is funded through a $40,000 DEEP Save Money and Reduce Trash grant, will provide color-coded bags for food scraps and other organic waste.
The participants will be customers of HQ Dumpsters, which is based in Southington.
“The customers will be given essentially a four month supply of trash bags and asked to separate their food scraps from their trash and then just throw the bags in their trash cans to be collected like they normally would,” said Howard Weissberg, director of public works.
HQ Dumpsters has been working with a consultant from the South Central Regional Council of Governments. Once the organic waste is collected, it will be transported to Quantum Biopower in Southington, where it will be transformed into biogas or composted to be used as soil or fertilizer.
“Obviously composting is something that I think we could get out of the waste stream, anything that is compostable, but the questions is how do you get it out of the waste stream without getting more barrels, more trucks running around, that’s the hard thing,” said Jack Perry, owner of HQ Dumpsters. “... We run split body trucks, so we run trucks that pick up trash and recycling at the same time … This may be an exciting thing to say, ‘Hey look you can have weekly trash, weekly recycling and weekly organic collection all with one truck.’”
Weissberg said the city will be able to apply to receive a grant to expand the program, however, the results of the pilot program will determine whether it will continue after the four months are complete. The program starts Feb. 2.
“There are a number of other towns that are watching this program to see what components of it work really well, what components need to be modified so they can develop their own programs as well,” Weissberg said. “We’re essentially just trying to be the first ones in, make a good effort of it and help others learn from what we’re all trying to accomplish.”
With fewer options to dispose of municipal solid waste in Connecticut and organic waste making up about 35% of what state residents throw away, Perry is excited to be a part of the pilot program.
“The trash industry has evolved and changed over the years, but again it takes a lot of effort and time and money to do that,” Perry said. “... Yeah it is going to be a process but I feel like it is the right thing to do and try.”