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Imposing fines for not recycling, debated in Southington, part of statewide effort

Imposing fines for not recycling, debated in Southington, part of statewide effort

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SOUTHINGTON — A suggested ordinance for municipalities that includes fines is part of a larger state effort to increase recycling and better inform the public about what to put in a recycling bin.

The town’s ordinance review committee considered a law written by the Housatonic Resources Recovery Agency and suggested by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Town leaders had concerns about the fines that could be levied on trash haulers and residents for not recycling or putting the wrong items in recycling barrels.

Regional resource recovery agencies have different rules for what can be recycled. Chris Nelson, DEEP supervising environmental analyst, said the state has compiled a list, called “What’s In, What’s Out” for all state residents.

“Every town was telling its residents to put in different things,” Nelson said. “We wanted to harmonize things town to town. That’s what’s reflected in the current What’s In, What’s Out.”

The state’s updated solid waste management plan calls for reducing municipal solid waste by 10 percent from 2014 by 2024.

Jennifer Heaton-Jones, HRRA executive director, said state law required DEEP to create a strategic plan but that there aren’t any statutes enforcing the goals. Strengthening municipal laws requiring recycling can help achieve those goals.

Several of the 11 towns in the HRRA are considering an ordinance similar to the one created by the authority.

Heaton-Jones defended fines, saying haulers and customers could benefit from better enforcement of recycling requirements because those who follow the rules are subsidizing additional costs created by those who don’t.

“Waste is one of those last things that should be set as a utility expense. We should be paying for what we’re actually throwing away and not subsidizing our neighbor’s bad habits,” Heaton-Jones said.

Cheryl Lounsbury, chairwoman of the ordinance committee, said there’s still confusion about what can be recycled. She and others on the committee said the state needs to focus on education.

Heaton-Jones said the What’s In, What’s Out campaign is a starting point.

Different recycling facilities will always take slightly different items since they have different relationships with buyers of recycled materials, Heaton-Jones said. One company might have a buyer for polystyrene while another may not.

“I think there’s always going to be, ultimately, recycling driven by the back end of the value of the sale: does someone want to buy it?” Heaton-Jones said.

Southington is part of the Bristol Resource Recovery Facility Operating Committee. Wallingford, Meriden and Cheshire send waste to Covanta Energy.

State law mandates some materials be recycled, such as aluminum, glass and number one and two plastics. The What’s In, What’s Out list comprises more than just the things required by statute.

The website for the campaign,, lists materials and items that can and can’t be recycled. Plastic one-use cups, tubs and bottles with the caps attached can be recycled. Loose bottle caps and small plastic items can’t be recycled since they’ll fall into the wrong section of the automatic sorting machinery. Plastic cutlery and Styrofoam cups can’t be recycled.

Nelson said people are often surprised by the list.

“The information is there, once people take the time to read it,” he said.
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ