Out of the trash, saving cash: How food waste could transform New England’s garbage

Tucked away inside a trash facility in central Connecticut is a pile of nondescript orange and green plastic bags. To the untrained eye, the mound of rotting waste looks like all the other trash piled up here, but Jack Perry, one of the owners of HQ Dumpsters & Recycling, said this trash is special.

“The orange bags are just straight trash, and the green bags are the food waste,” he said.

This story is part of special Earth Week coverage from the New England News Collaborative on how climate change is affecting food systems in our region.

Through the green plastic we see fruit peels and rotting vegetables. It’s all part of a big experiment.

“What’s happening here is we have a pilot program,” Perry said, “to be able to try to divert organic waste out of the waste stream.”

Right now, about 1,000 households in Meriden are working with the state to try out a municipal food waste recycling program. The latest federal data show that more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other material in our everyday trash. And while that wasted food is expensive to get rid of, it can also drive up methane and carbon emissions.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public / NENC

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Green bags full of food scraps sit next to orange bags full of trash after being dropped off at HQ Dumpsters and Recycling in Southington. The load of waste materials is a part of a pilot municipal food waste recycling program in the town of Meriden, where about 1,000 households are now separating their old food from their trash to be transferred to an anaerobic digester and…

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