Connecticut Burn Plant to Close Amid Many Failures

Date: December 5, 2020

Source: News Room

A major waste-to-energy plant in Hartford, CT is set to close, by the end of fiscal 2022 at the latest. This plant, run by the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), a quasi-public institution, has been the destination of between 600,000 to 720,000 tons per year of Connecticut's garbage since 1988. Soon, the MIRA plant will become a transfer station, where waste that would have been incinerated will be sent to landfills in other states. In the long run, Connecticut is going to have to find new ways to deal with the waste produced in its state.

Since the MIRA plant suffered a major mechanical failure in 2017, waste to energy production at the site has suffered. MIRA petitioned several times for subsidies to keep the plant afloat, however those subsidies never came. Additionally, the power it produces has been priced out of the market over time as the energy market has shifted toward cheaper natural gas and government subsidies have shifted towards renewable sources like wind and solar. With the impending shutdown of the plant, Connecticut lawmakers will have to face the costly alternative of shipping the trash to facilities out of state, since no facilities exist within Connecticut that can handle the same volume. Lawmakers are scrambling to find alternatives to the otherwise very costly option of sending waste out-of-state.

One avenue lawmakers are pursuing is organic waste recycling. Currently within the state, commercial food waste is turned into compost and biogas at Quantum Biopower. Residential food waste, however, mostly ends up mixed in with the rest of the trash Connecticut produces. As Covid-19 has shuttered many commercial properties, the stream of food waste going to Quantum has dwindled, and the share that ends up in landfills has grown. To address this, a coalition of 74 towns has agreed to increase efforts to divert residential food waste to recycling centers like Quantum's. Putting together a public outreach campaign as well as incentivizing citizens to participate is going to be key to the success of this effort.

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