CT pushing for innovators to handle trash instead of fixing MIRA plant

Environment

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner are looking for alternatives for getting rid of Connecticut’s trash.

There are five trash to energy plants around the state that take care of garbage.

On an annual basis, more than 60,000 tons of trash comes into Hartford’s Materials and Innovation Recycling Authority‘s (MIRA) trash to energy facility from around 50 Connecticut towns — most of which roll the expense into property taxes.

MIRA had asked the state to borrow $330 million for upgrades to handle current and future. trash intake, but right now, the state is saying no to that request. The state is hoping to instead invest in more sustainable solutions for waste management.

The smelly power play was on display during a news conference in Hartford on Wednesday.

Thomas Kirk, MIRA President, said he was in a board meeting when Lamont and the DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes made the announcement.

“Inevitably, we have to build capacity here in Connecticut,” he said. “You can’t just wish the garbage away.”

“The I in MIRA stands for innovation,” Lamont said. “The idea of just doing hundreds of millions of dollars at the old trash to energy plant didn’t make much sense to me.”

One idea they came across was partnering with Blue Earth Compost, which collects food scrap waste, and in turn, reduces the amount of solid waste coming into trash facilities. The cost can be $30 per month.

“There’s anaerobic digestion, which takes massive amounts of food waste and turns it into electricity and compost products,” Sam King, Blue Earth Compost, explained. “We just don’t have the investment at this time.”

The organization is looking to partner with the state and municipalities.

“This is not just something that we need to work with MIRA or the MIRA towns, but this is an opportunity every town, every community can participate in,” Dykes said.

“The available innovative technology like Blue Earth are promising, but not ready for prime time,” Kirk said, adding that capacity and cost drive the market — which small innovators can’t handle right now.

He feels Blue Earth doesn’t have the large scale customer base or financial backing to service 169 towns accordingly.

“The cost of dealing with our garbage isn’t $80 a ton to bury in a hole in Ohio, it’s actually more,” remarked Kirk.

The question remains who will pay for it?

Dykes is not advising municipalities break contracts with the MIRA trash plant, but instead, encouraging them to look for innovative, sustainable solutions for getting rid of its trash, like partnering with Blue Earth.

If the upgrades at MIRA do not happen, they would need to ship around 2.5 million tons of garbage to out of state landfills, which will increase costs for the 50 towns MIRA serves.

In the meantime, MIRA may be forced to haul all of its trash out of state, which could cost towns and taxpayers more money. MIRA is set to continue talks with the state on its operations plan.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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