A 2015 waste characterization study of Connecticut’s waste stream found that food scraps make up 22.3% of the state’s disposed solid waste. In fact, the percentage of compostable materials found in the state’s annual contribution to landfills increases to 37.3% with the inclusion of compostable paper and yard trimmings, which make up 10.7% and 4.3% of the waste stream, respectively. An earlier waste characterization study conducted in 2010 prompted Connecticut to enact a recycling mandate for certain organic materials, which came into effect on January 1, 2014.
In fact, Connecticut became the first state to mandate food scraps generated by large-scale generators be recycled when it passed Public Act 11-217 in 2011. The law was updated and expanded in 2013 by Public Act 13-285. These two bills constitute the whole of the organic recycling mandate and amend Section 22a-226e of Connecticut’s Solid Waste Management Statute. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the mandate. CT DEEP provides information on all associated laws, regulations, permitting requirements, and general information about composting on their website.
Setting the Stage
Connecticut already had a number of composting facilities due to existing mandatory leaf and grass trimmings recycling programs. According to Diane Duva, a former Assistant Director of the Waste Engineering and Enforcement Division at CT DEEP, there were three key steps in setting the stage for Connecticut’s organics recycling mandate.
Step 1: Connecticut created a GIS-based map and database of the state’s large-scale food scrap generators to demonstrate that there would be sufficient volume to sustain full-scale processing facilities and map the location of generators that could potentially supply those facilities with feedstock.
Connecticut’s interactive Food Residuals Map
Step 2: Connecticut conducted a state-wide waste characterization study to determine the weight, type, and generator sector of food scraps being disposed of in the state. The 2010 study found that:
- Over 321,000 tons per year of food scraps were disposed (which increased to 520,000 tons in 2015 )
- Food scraps alone represented 13% of all solid waste disposed (which increased to 22.3% in 2015 )
- Collectively, food residuals, other organics and compostable paper (soiled, waxed or otherwise unrecyclable) represented about one-third of the total waste sent to resource recovery facilities (which increased to over 37% in 2015 )
Step 3: Connecticut then prioritized food scrap recycling and composting in the state’s Solid Waste Management Plan and Climate Change Preparedness Plan (2011) and adopted the following solid waste management order of priority:
- Source reduction / Reuse > Recycling / Composting > Resource Recovery or waste-to-energy plants > Incineration and Landfilling
Step 4: In 2016, the Solid Waste Management Plan was revised to produce the Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (CMMS) as a roadmap to achieve the state’s goal of 60% diversion of materials from disposal by 2024. The Strategy prioritizes composting as a key waste diversion tool, in addition to source reduction, reuse, recycling, and new waste conversion processes.
Connecticut’s General Statutes pertaining to Solid Waste Management (Chapter 446d) define source-separated organic material as “organic material, including, but not limited to, food scraps, food processing residue and soiled or unrecyclable paper that has been separated at the point or source of generation from nonorganic material.”
The mandate requires that generators source-separate their organic materials, then either (a) compost or treat source-separated organic materials on-site using permitted equipment, or (b) ensure that such source-separated organic materials are recycled at an authorized source-separated organic material composting facility.
Permitted composting facilities that receive these source-separated organic materials are required to report a summary of fees charged for the materials to the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection as a part of their reporting responsibilities.
“Sec. 22a-226e. Recycling of source-separated organic materials. Report.
(2) On and after January 1, 2020, each commercial food wholesaler or distributor, industrial food manufacturer or processor, supermarket, resort or conference center that is located not more than twenty miles from an authorized source-separated organic material composting facility and that generates an average projected volume of not less than fifty-two tons per year of source-separated organic materials shall: (A) Separate such source-separated organic materials from other solid waste; and (B) ensure that such source-separated organic materials are recycled at any authorized source-separated organic material composting facility that has available capacity and that will accept such source-separated organic material.”
Targeted generators explicitly listed in Connecticut’s source-separated organics law include: commercial food wholesalers and distributors; industrial food manufacturers and processors; supermarkets; resorts; and conference centers. Targeted generators are entities creating the following average annual projected volumes of source-separated organic materials and are affected by the corresponding statutory implementation dates:
- ≥ 104 tons/year: January 1, 2014
- ≥ 52 tons/year: January 1, 2020
Generators are affected by the mandate if they are located within 20 miles of an authorized source-separated organic material composting facility, but only if the facility has available capacity and is willing to accept such material. The CT DEEP encourages—though does not at this time require—institutions such as schools, universities, and prisons to recycle food scraps, due to anticipated disposal cost savings. They also encourage the prioritization of food waste reduction and recovery over food scrap recycling.
CT DEEP expects the mandate will have a positive impact in several environmental and economic areas, for example:
- Create marketable commercial products for local retailers
- Encourage investment in new organics recycling facilities by providing a sustained “feedstock’
- Spur creation of in-state jobs
- Develop an organic material management infrastructure
- Make municipal institutions & schools sought after organics customers
- Save businesses money due to lower disposal cost savings (via lower tipping fees)
- Promote investments in clean energy market and infrastructure
- Create a valuable soil amendment that improves soil health & reduces erosion and reduces or eliminates need of chemical fertilizers & pesticides
- Reduce GHG emissions by building a local organics recycling infrastructure, thus decreasing distances traveled to more distant recycling facilities
- Reduce the need for new landfills or resource recovery facilities
- Connecticut’s General Statues – Solid Waste Management (Chapter 446d*)
- Connecticut DEEP – Timeline History of Organics Recycling in Connecticut (2014)
- Connecticut DEEP – Commercial Organics Recycling Law
- Connecticut DEEP – Food Waste Reduction and Recovery
- Connecticut DEEP – 2016 Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (CMMS) (previously 2006 Statewide Solid Waste Management Plan)
 Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. March 15, 2016. “2015 Statewide Waste Characterization Study.” Prepared by MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants, DSM Environmental Services, Inc., and Cascadia Consulting Group. (p. ES-5) [PDF]  Duva, Diane. March 2012. “Recycling Means Business: Connecticut signals food scrap recycling facilities are welcome.” American Public Works Association Reporter. [read online]
Original post from July 11, 2014
Updated July 15, 2021