OLD SAYBROOK — Are your Valentine’s Day flowers less lovely after a week in a vase? Perhaps the crusty end of your baguette is getting moldy.
Don’t toss them in the trash, take them to the transfer station. They may someday become a tasty pork chop on your plate, or even heat your home.
According to Transfer Station operator Jim Therrien, about 30 percent of the waste thrown into the town’s hoppers is organic waste that could be recycled to save the town money in hauling fees and help the environment.
The town’s new food scrap recycling program accepts fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bones, dairy, coffee grounds, bread, pasta, grains, eggshells, chips, snacks, nuts, seeds, spoiled food, expired food and cut flowers in the blue barrels near the office doors.
“We’re taking food scraps of any description. It’s not for composting, so we can take meat, bones and cheese and other dairy products,” Therrien said. The food scraps will go to Millaras Piggery in the Quaker Hill section of Waterford for use as animal feed.
“The pigs absolutely love it,” 29-year-old fourth generation farmer John Millaras said. “We’ve been recycling food waste for almost 100 years. It’s beneficial to our community and our pigs,” because it reduces waste going to landfills, saves on hauling fees, and the pigs “aren’t just on a straight corn or straight grain diet. The whole variety of food they get helps the animals grow faster, and live happier, healthier lives,” Millaras said.
“We collect the food waste and bring it back to the farm, then we have to re-cook it through steam, and then we’re allowed to feed it to the pigs. You have to be licensed to do this. My brother and I are two of maybe four people in the state,” who are licensed for this process, Millaras said.
The Old Saybrook food scrap recycling program came out of the “Recycling Task Force that I put together about a year ago,” said First Selectman Carl Fortuna Jr. In addition to feeding animals, he said the town is in talks with Blue Earth Compost, a Hartford company that collects organic waste and brings it to Quantum Biopower in Southington to be turned into biofuel. The company collects from households and businesses in a few areas of the state for a fee, according to the Blue Earth website, blueearthcompost.com, which lists their service areas.
“It’s not just a lark, we’re really trying to build it,” Fortuna said, adding, “if we can scale this up enough, we can hire them (Blue Earth) to bring in 50-gallon barrels and haul it away maybe once a week.” Fortuna hopes these early days of the initiative serve to “raise awareness, and gauge interest” in recycling organic waste.
Food waste does not look or smell better with time, but storing scraps in a tightly covered container will eliminate this worry until trash day, or residents can bag and freeze scraps until they can be taken to the transfer station.
Standing beside one of the 30-gallon collection barrels at the Transfer Station recently, Therrien tipped it and said, “This barrel here is about half full, and it’s really heavy already.”
“In 2019, we had 1695 tons of garbage go into the two hoppers,” he added. “That’s about 3.3 million pounds of trash, so 30 percent of that would be about a million pounds of organic trash and would mean a savings of about $42,000 a year,” in hauling costs if it could all be diverted, Therrien said.
Passionate about recycling, Therrien created a YouTube video, “Jim Therrien Talks Recycling,” which he said is “about how to get a handle on what we’re doing with our trash.” View it on the town website, oldsaybrookct.gov, or https://youtu.be/tCNsFgns658.
“The thing about composting is that most people aren’t going to do it in their backyard, so they need a place to bring it,” Fortuna said, adding that reducing the amount of organic waste in the hoppers “even by 3 percent, or 5 percent, can add up to real money.”
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org