A trashy situation: Naugatuck struggles to find long-term waste solution

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The Naugatuck Public Works Department released this photo depicting how not to place automated garbage and recycling barrels. Archive

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are beginning to weigh options on how to resolve a looming trash disposal dilemma.

The borough contracts with the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority for disposal of municipal solid waste and recycling. MIRA operates a trash-to-energy plant in Hartford that serves dozens of municipalities in the state. The borough is contracted with USA Hauling & Recycling to pick up trash and recycling at the curb and bring it to MIRA’s trash-to-energy facility in the South Meadows section of Hartford.

The borough generated 9,300 tons of trash and 2,300 tons of recycling in the fiscal year 2020, an increase from 8,400 tons of trash and 2,100 tons of recycling, according to Public Works Director James Stewart.

MIRA’s tipping fees rose from $91 to $105 a ton to dispose of garbage, which means the borough is looking at over $1 million in tipping fees for municipal solid waste and recycling, Stewart said.

The trash-to-energy facility needs a $330 million renovation by 2023 to remain active. For the renovation to happen, MIRA needs significant state support or member municipalities to agree to 30-year contracts, which would raise the tipping fee to $145 per ton, the Republican-American previously reported.

Municipalities aren’t willing to sign up for 30-year contracts with a high tipping fee to pay for the work needed at the plant, so MIRA is planning to shut down its incinerator in July, according to Stewart.

N. Warren ‘Pete’ Hess, Naugatuck mayor. Contributed

“The state of Connecticut is completely lost at sea and is not giving municipalities any legitimate trash disposal options, which means that we are going to have to make some decisions,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said at the Jan. 4 Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting.

Hess said the borough has two options. The first option is to stay with MIRA, who plans to present the borough with information and a proposed contract. The second option is to work with a private company. USA Hauling & Recycling plans to give the borough a proposal.

MIRA is planning to truck the trash out of state, according to Stewart.

A team will be analyzing options from both companies, according to Hess. “Basically everything is going to be landfilled out of state. The exact opposite of what we were told 30 years ago, land filling was bad,” Hess said. “Now that’s the direction the state is going, out of state landfilling. It’s going to cost more money and we’re going to make the best deal we can.”

Borough officials are going to meet with both entities to hear their offers and then ultimately make a decision, Hess said.

Stewart said residents can do their part to help the borough with disposal costs.

“Do the best they can to recycle everything they can,” Stewart said. “That’s their way of helping the town to reduce the cost.”

Stewart said recycling disposal is free and residents can learn more about what is allowed to be recycled by visiting recyclect.com. Glass bottles, paper, plastic food containers and cardboard are recyclable while plastic bags, Styrofoam/plastic foam, loose bottle caps, shredded paper cups and leaf and lawn clippings aren’t, according to Stewart.

Stewart expects the borough to get the numbers from USA Hauling & Recycling and MIRA by next month.

Borough officials will look for a solution according to Hess.

“It’s a big issue so we’re all going to keep our eye on it,” Hess said.