Recycling Routines: A Refresher

Some Connecticut towns recycle more than ever. Are we doing it right?

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Recycled, sorted and bundled paper at CRRA.
Mechanical facilities enable faster sorting through a single-stream recycling process. Photo:Heather Brandon
Bucket loaders manage the huge piles of mixed recyclables at the CRRA facility.
Haulers deliver the mixed materials directly through open garage doors. Photo:Heather Brandon
The trash pile at CRRA is massive, but turns over daily.
All sorts of trash is co-mingled here, and will be sorted mechanically and by hand. Photo:Heather Brandon
Workers at CRRA sort recycled material on conveyor belts.
The most common item pulled: plastic grocery bags, which can't be recycled here. Photo:Heather Brandon
Aluminum cans are pressed into large cubes that can be loaded and shipped.
Aluminum and steel can be recycled infinitely, often turned into yet more cans like these. Photo:Heather Brandon
Consumers could opt not to recycle cans, but redeem them for cash.
Some question whether the bottle bill is helping consumers if they're choosing to recycle directly instead. Photo:Heather Brandon
Paul Nonnenmacher
Photo:Chion Wolf
Recycling Routines: A Refresher
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Recycling Routines: A Refresher

It wasn’t too long ago that everything you threw out went in the trash, then to a landfill. Now, due to changes in public attitude and government incentives, recycling has become a part of our daily lives.

Back in 1980, for instance, only about 10 percent of trash got recycled. That number is up to 34 percent. Much better, but still “lackluster” according to proponents of “sustainable” business. Some European countries are up around 50 percent. So, what can we do to recycle more? What’s the incentive? 

It’s the right thing to do and all...but those peanut butter jars are a pain to clean. And do you really set aside your egg cartons, takeout containers, beer bottles, junk mail, mayonnaise jars? 

And, here’s another idea....why don’t we just throw away less stuff overall? As you’ll hear, the amount we dispose of can mean big money for those who recycle.

Today, we look at recycling here in Connecticut. Recycling across the state has been stagnant in the last several years. Nationwide, the recycling rate has been dropping. What’s more, the amount of garbage we generate in the US has gone down along with the recession. But in mid-Connecticut, the towns served by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, or CRRA, have actually increased their recycling tonnage - in some cases, by a lot - more than 18 percent since 2006.

Trash is more than just something to get rid of...it’s a kind of indicator of how well our economy’s doing. 

We want to hear from you. How does it work in your town? Are you sorting out the paper from the plastic? Cans from bottles? Our show today is 100% original...with no recycled content.