- A waste and recycling bill backed by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has passed both chambers and is heading to the governor’s desk for signature. HB 6664 has undergone major changes since it was first introduced. The version passed in the Senate on Wednesday deleted an extended producer responsibility for packaging program, including a clause that would have delayed any work on the program until neighboring states adopted similar EPR bills.
- The bill still calls for an expanded organics separation program, including at institutions like hospitals and schools, and sets mandatory rates for recycled content for certain plastic beverage containers.
- It also calls for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to make recommendations for possibly creating a new quasi-public state agency to develop new solid waste infrastructure in the state. A request for information period would explore new systems for processing waste within the state, and financing could eventually come from up to $500 million in bonding from the Connecticut Green Bank, a quasi-public agency meant to fund renewable energy projects.
When Lamont and DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes first introduced the sweeping bill in January, they envisioned it as a vehicle to maximize waste diversion in the wake of last year’s closure of a major WTE facility owned by the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority. In an emailed statement, Dykes said the closure leaves about an 860,000 ton “self-sufficiency gap.”
The version of the bill passed on Wednesday will still have some waste diversion and recycling impacts, but proponents say the results are expected to be muted compared with the accelerated changes proposed earlier this year.
The version of the bill headed to the governor’s desk calls for institutions such as hospitality and entertainment businesses and rehab, healthcare, and correctional institutions with at least 26 tons per year of organic waste, to compost the material at a state-authorized facility. Previous versions would have imposed a mile radius clause, which would have exempted numerous businesses and was not considered ideal by groups such as ReFED.
Dykes said the provision could help divert 45,000 tons of organics per year, but that estimate assumes institutions are able to divert all of their food scraps after the law goes into effect. A previous version of the bill would have required municipalities to provide food scrap separation and collection by 2028, but that provision didn’t make it to the final bill.
Julie Cammarata, a political consultant and principal of Cammarata Government Affairs, said organics diversion is a very important issue in the state, but felt that the resulting provisions in the bill leaves cities and towns out of the loop. The final version of the bill as written will have a “miniscule impact” on food waste diversion in the state, she said.
The bill’s contentious EPR for packaging provision also was deleted from the bill. Dykes said the program could have diverted MSW disposal by up to 190,000 tons per year and saved municipalities $50 million a year. Yet the concept faced fierce opposition from recyclers such as Casella Waste Systems, as well as the National Waste & Recycling Association, who said it would jeopardize an existing recycling system and that EPR should be reserved for hard-to-recycle materials.
Back in March, the legislature’s Environment Committee watered down the EPR proposal by calling to pause EPR provisions until at least four other states, including a neighboring state, implement their own EPR for packaging policies.
Though EPR for packaging fell through, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a separate EPR bill for tires. HB 6486 makes manufacturers responsible for recycling old tires. Cammarata said the bill will help add needed oversight to the state’s tire recycling systems and curb illegal dumping. Connecticut is the first state to pass a tire EPR bill, according to the Product Stewardship Institute.
Other portions of HB 6664 passed with smaller changes. The bill calls for certain plastic beverage containers to contain at least 25% recycled content by January 2027 and 30% by January 2032 — a change from earlier versions that called for 50% by 2033. The recycled content targets were updated to make sure the state had access to enough feedstock to meet the goal, the CT Examiner reported.
The bill also includes details on restructuring major state solid waste management services and giving the state more authority to manage MIRA’s board. The latest amendment also asks DEEP to submit recommendations on the “feasibility and advisability” of creating a new quasi-public state agency or waste authority for managing and operating new solid waste infrastructure.
If the state eventually builds a plant to replace MIRA, it must have an anaerobic digester and fuel cell, the bill states. The bill calls for DEEP to to issue a request for information on systems for managing solid waste generated in the state that isn’t otherwise diverted from the waste stream. The bill calls for the RFI to be issued by October, with a possible RFP process could follow. That RFI process could include information on waste gasification systems, which nonprofit Just Zero criticized as “dangerous” and “intended to push waste gasification on Connecticut communities at the expense of their health and the environment.”