‘Trash talk’ takes shape in New London

NEW LONDON -- Throw it away and expect to pay, could be a new motto in New London.

Residents spent Wednesday night learning about a new "Pay as you throw," trash system, at the Science and Technology Magnet High School.

Proponents of the program said it could reduce trash and disposal costs for the city, estimating it would save roughly $600,000 dollars a year.

"The reality is we have immediate funding needs in the solid waste division," Director of Public Works Brian Sear said at the public input meeting.

The "SMART" program, which stands for save money reduce trash, pushes for people to think about paying for trash as a utility rather than a flat fee; they would get charged for the amount of waste they generate. Right now, New London residents pay for trash disposal through taxes.

The presentation stated that each Connecticut resident throws away about 798 pounds of trash each year. New London residents are estimated to dispose of 859 pounds. The SMART average is 432 pounds per year.

Under the program, homeowners would buy special bags at the grocery store. A 33 gallon bag was priced at one dollar and a 15-gallon bag was priced at 80 cents, in Wednesday night's presentation. The cost of each bag includes the price of disposal.

Stonington is one town using a similar program.

"What about towns and communities that have done this and stopped it?" one speaker asked, citing East Lyme.

Many people who spoke at the meeting expressed feeling skeptical of the program including resident Rebeca Rodriguez.

"I can't say the word that I really wanna say but nonsense, I think its just nonsense," she said. "I think we should try other ways first."

Cathi Strothur said she thinks the city has run out of options and is on board with trying out the program.

"Not at first, but eventually it will save money for the city," she said.

As an avid recycler, Strothur feels this will encourage more people to do the same.

"I’m concerned about the money that is gonna be spent on this project thats gonna come out of my pocket, once again as our taxes are already high," Rodriguez said.

City council will decide in a future meeting whether or not to approve the use of $54,000 in grant funds from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection towards the program.

A council member told FOX61 it should be on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

West Hartford held a public forum to consider the program, last January. Public Relations Specialist for the Town of West Hartford Renee McCue said the town did not move forward with the program.

She said their philosophy is that they can’t start charging people for their trash unless they give them new ways to get rid of it.

Instead of adopting SMART, the town has implemented a new weekly recycling pickup, it is no longer bi-weekly. The town believes this has helped motivate residents to recycle.

The town also now has a curbside textile recycling initiative for clothes, stuffed animals, blankets, etc.