DEEP: 2006 - Updated Solid Waste Plan Focuses on Recycling

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Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Updated Solid Waste Plan Focuses on Recycling

In 2006, DEP amended the state's Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) to recommit the state to a strategy of reducing the volume of solid waste - in part by nearly doubling the state's recycling rate from about 30% to 58% by 2024.
The 2006 SWMP offered the latest evolution of Connecticut approach to addressing the challenge of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
For much of the 20th century, the preferred practice for the management of MSW consisted of open burning. Open burning of MSW took place in backyards, at regional incinerators - that had no air pollution control systems - at large institutions and buildings, and at local open dumps in pits.

Movement toward the landfilling – or burial – of MSW intensified in the 1970s as the result of growing awareness of the dangers of air pollution and concerns over proper handling of refuse. State regulations prohibiting open air burning and solid waste provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 helped replace open burning with sanitary landfill management.

DEP’s first solid waste regulations were promulgated in 1974 and prohibited the construction and operation of solid waste management facilities without permits issued by the Commissioner. During the 1970’s and the 1980’s, it was typical for towns and municipalities to have their own landfills for MSW and bulky waste to manage the solid waste generated within the town boundary. During this time, there were approximately 170 total active landfills.

The days of landfills were numbered, however, as Connecticut set out on a course toward a new solid waste management strategy. This strategy called for the controlled burning of MSW in high technology facilities that would actually generate energy from the incineration of waste. By 1980, the first trash-to-energy plant, or resource recovery facility (RRF) was operating in Bridgeport and a second plant was under construction in Hartford.

Today, the state has six MSW RRFs and one tire RRF, and there are only about 30 landfills remaining in Connecticut. Most of these landfills are limited to items like land-clearing debris and oversized wastes, and there is only one landfill that still accepts municipal solid waste. When this last remaining MSW landfill closes, Connecticut will become the first state in the nation to have no MSW landfills.

Utilizing the six resources recovery facilities, Connecticut, burns approximately 62% of our MSW for energy recovery and power generation. This is twice the national average.

DEP estimates that disposal of MSW in FY-2008 consisted of:

  • 2,110,855 tons burned in RRFs
  • 865,432 tons recycled
  • 261,255 tons taken out of state
  • 163,543 tons landfilled in Connecticut

Connecticut MSW

Tons FY2008

% of Total MSW Generated FY2008

MSW Disposed in CT Landfills



MSW Burned in CT RRFs

· 544,709 tons of RRF ash was buried in LFs

· 48,070 tons of metal recycled from RRF ash

· 1,350,720,162 KWH net energy produced



MSW Disposed OOS



MSW Recycled



MSW Generated



Estimated Home Composted/Grasscycled



MSW Reported Recycled + Estimated Home Composted, and Grasscycled



Transfer stations have become an increasingly important component of Connecticut's MSW management system. They serve as aggregation points for efficient transport of MSW to the in-state resources recovery facilities and few remaining landfills, as well as to out-of-state disposal facilities. Currently, there are over 150 transfer stations in Connecticut today.

Connecticut has been able to phase-out our reliance on landfills which consume large tracts of land and pose a variety of environmental issues, as we have adopted and amended the SWMP. The first SWMP was adopted in 1991 and this plan was amended in 2006.

This plan establishes a long-range vision to significantly reduce the amount of solid waste generated and the amount requiring disposal through increased source reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. The overall goal of this Plan is to safely and effectively meet the solid waste management needs of Connecticut by reducing the amount of waste generated and disposed of, thereby minimizing the impacts of waste management and product manufacturing on the environment. This goal will be attained by managing solid waste according to the hierarchy of preferred management methods established by CGS Section 22a-228(b):

  1. source reduction;
  2. recycling;
  3. composting of yard waste or vegetable matter;
  4. bulky waste recycling;
  5. resources recovery facilities (RRF) or waste-to-energy plants; and
  6. incineration and landfilling.

Mandatory recycling began in 1991 and substantial progress has been made in every Connecticut municipality and there remains more to be done. In Connecticut, every person, business, and institution is required by law to separate and collect for recycling the following items: glass food & beverage containers, used motor oil, vehicle batteries, scrap metal, corrugated cardboard, newspaper, metal food & beverage containers, leaves, white office paper and nickel-cadmium batteries. Additionally, grass clippings are banned from disposal in Connecticut; they should be left on the lawn, or if collected, they must be composted. Other commonly collected but not yet mandated items for recycling include: plastics, boxboard, magazines, junk mail and other paper. Consideration of additional items for recycling especially commercially generated source separated food scraps will be important in order to achieve by 2024 the state’s 58% source reduction and recycling goal, and significantly reduce or eliminate the need for additional landfills and/or resources recovery facilities.

Before 1991, recycling was primarily done only on a voluntary basis. Connecticut’s current statewide average for recycling is approximately 30% of the solid waste stream (based on reported tons recycled and estimates for unreported recyclables). Connecticut has shifted from being a throwaway society towards a system that reduces the generation and toxicity of trash and is treating more wastes as valuable raw materials and as an energy resource, rather than as useless garbage or trash.

Even as Connecticut moves toward maximizing the amount of waste that is source reduced, recycled and composted, there will continue to be a need to dispose of the remaining waste in an efficient, equitable, and environmentally protective manner.

Since the late 1980s, Connecticut has developed a strong in-state infrastructure for managing the municipal solid waste that is generated. This is a result of the commitment to environmental protection and sound waste management made by the general public; environmental advocates; legislative leaders; municipal governments; regional solid waste entities such as the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority (HRRA), Bristol Resource Recovery Facility Operating Committee (BRRFOC)/Tunxis Recycling Operating Committee (TROC), and Southeastern Connecticut Regional Resource Recovery Authority (SCRRRA); and the trash authorities such as the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority. However, the situation in Connecticut today finds the infrastructure for disposal to be lacking. In-state disposal capacity shortfalls exist for both construction and demolition debris (C&D) and oversized MSW, forcing Connecticut to increasingly export much of this waste to out-of-state landfills.

The DEP promotes Unit Based Pricing systems, such as the federal EPA’s SMART (Save Money And Reduce Trash) program. SMART and Unit Based Pricing programs are methods of charging for trash disposal based on the actual amount disposed. A growing number of Connecticut municipalities have joined the over 7,000 communities nationwide that have successfully implemented SMART programs. This means that households in these towns are charged for waste collection based on the amount of waste they throw away - in the same way that they are charged for electricity, gas, and other utilities, providing incentives for residents to not only increase the amount they recycle, as they are not charged for the amount of recyclables generated, but also to think about ways to generate less waste in the first place. Unit Based Pricing programs provide waste management solutions that make economic sense, are fair to residents and are good for the environment.

In the future, Connecticut will increase the amount of materials being reused, recycled and/or recovered by promoting material exchanges, deconstruction practices, beneficial reuse of solid wastes, product stewardship and organic/biomass composting and/or energy recovery technologies.

More Information

Learn more about source reduction, reuse and recycling options in your municipality. Change your buying and disposal habits, promote recycling programs at your school, workplace and at public events, and demand product stewardship from manufacturers.