School board wants more info before making food waste recycling decision

July 25, 2014

By Lindsay Carey
Staff Writer
The Board of Education  is seeking more information before it agrees to sign a food waste deal with Covanta Energy.
At the Board of Education meeting on June 26, Covanta gave an overview of their plan to install food recycling bins in the schools and transport the solid food waste to Turning Earth, a partnering company.
Turning Earth is an anaerobic digestion organic recycling facility, which is scheduled to open on Spring Street in 2015. According to Covanta Municipal Services Manager Tom Cipolla, reducing the solid waste in the schools will bring economic benefits to the town. Cipolla said that it will be cheaper to organically dispose of the food than what the town is currently paying for trash.
Covanta leaders were hoping to begin collecting food waste in Southington Public Schools by September. Though board members were enthusiastic about a new recycling initiative, it could not agree to anything because of the uncertainty of what the cost to implement the program will be.
Prices on the food waste containers as well as training and communication for this new program for the students, faculty and staff was of concern to board members.
“Communication is critical on this,” admitted Cipolla. “With new programs like this it makes sense to over communicate rather than under communicate.”
He also said that Covanta would gladly make some newsletters or pamphlets for students to bring home to their families.
During the meeting, Cipolla even discussed Covanta’s partnership with the Center for EcoTechnology, a group that would help educate the students about the food waste program. However, Cipolla said that it would ultimately be up to the board how they would like to educate their students.
Cipolla said that he will need to come back to the board with the details of the program, such as recommendations for how many food waste containers will be needed, the frequency in which they need to be emptied and all the costs that it will incur.
Cipolla said that he didn’t get into pricing during his presentation, because pricing is driven by transportation, the type of container and how many containers will be needed, among several other factors.
By the end of the presentation, Interim Superintendent Karen Smith suggested that Covanta work with the Board of Education and the Interim Superintendent’s office to discuss the specific needs of the school system and then come back with some prices.
“It makes sense that we take a look at this with them, so we understand what their needs are and determine what the cost structure will be,” said Cipolla.
Smith said that they are still setting up time for meeting.

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