What can be recycled? What can’t be? What goes into the single stream bin? What doesn’t? What’s the best way to dispose of a mattress or couch?
These questions and others are what the proposed Transfer Station Advisory Committee hopes to tackle once the Board of Selectmen appoints members. The committee is also charged with ensuring the dump gets run efficiently and is cost effective.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told The Times that she looks forward to engaging the public on this issue.
“We have a very well-educated community who generally want to do the right thing, who try to do the right thing,” Stevenson said. “In some ways we all can do a better job recycling. Single stream is a way we can do so much more. Public education is key for me.”
The committee would be responsible for developing a public education program and examining the business model of the dump. These duties would include informing residents how to better use single stream recycling, tracking progress in increasing recycling volume, evaluating operations, identifying services and how to provide them, and evaluating revenue generated by the dump to limit tax dollar support of the facility.
“Right now, we’re subsidizing the transfer station with taxpayer dollars,” Stevenson said. “The Board of Selectmen need to decide if we want to continue the practice of having taxpayer subsidies for what I consider to be a wonderful convenience… What other things can we do operationally to have that facility be more self-sustaining?”
The first selectman added that working alongside Bob Steeger, public works director, is an integral part of this process.
Residents, selectmen and town officials have emphasized the need for more education on dump rules since single-stream recycling took effect in May. Single stream recycling allows people to mix all recyclables in one container, and eliminates the need to separate recyclables at the transfer station. All recyclables are deposited in a single container, but they must be clean and have no food, dirt or liquid residue.
This method of recycling was implemented to increase the overall quantity of recyclables in town and to make recycling easier for residents, town officials have said. Single stream recycling will also be accepted from your garbage hauler at the dump.
Darien currently recycles about 60% of its waste, according to public works records, while the remaining municipal solid waste gets incinerated at the Wheelabrator facility in Bridgeport. The mass is reduced by a factor of 10 to 1, and then the ash is taken to a landfill in Putnam, Conn.
Stevenson said that in her household, single stream has enabled her family to recycle much more than they were before, even though she herself has always been a diligent recycler.
“Our recycling bin is twice as big as our municipal solid waste,” she said. “That’s the point we’d like to get to” as a town.
Household behavior is one element of the education campaign, Stevenson said, but working with the haulers to determine how best to improve the single stream process is also key. Currently, City Carting pays the town $15 per ton of recyclables.
“The more our community recycles, the more of a financial benefit it will be for the town, which may have some impact,” Stevenson said.