A 2010 waste characterization study of Connecticut’s waste stream found that food scraps were the single most common recyclable material (13% by weight) of the state’s disposed solid waste. In fact, almost one-third of the state’s annual contribution to landfills is made up of food scraps and other organics like yard trimmings, food residues, and compostable (soiled and otherwise unrecyclable) paper. These numbers 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.
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
- Food scraps alone represented 13% of all solid waste disposed
- 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
- Source reduction > recycling > composting of yard waste or vegetable matter > bulky waste recycling > resource recovery or waste-to-energy plants > incineration and landfilling
Connecticut’s interactive Food Residuals Map
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.
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 Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Materials Management and Compliance Assurance. May 26, 2010. “Connecticut State-wide Solid Waste Composition and Characterization Study.” Prepared by DSM Environmental Services, Inc., Cascadia Consulting Group, and MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants. (p. 14) [PDF]
 Duva, Diane. March 2012. “Recycling Means Business: Connecticut signals food scrap recycling facilities are welcome.” American Public Works Association Reporter. [PDF]
Original post from July 11, 2014
Updated August 25, 2016