Old Lyme Takes New Direction in Trash Collection, Opts Out of MIRA Contract


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OLD LYME – As MIRA faces an uncertain future after its trash-burning power plant in Hartford closes later this year, Old Lyme decided to leave the quasi-public that has taken the town’s trash for 25 years.

The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to opt out of its contract with MIRA and enter a five-year contract with New London-based CWPM Waste Removal and Recycling Services that First Selectman Tim Griswold said will save the town thousands of dollars each year.

The Materials Innovation and Recovery Authority, or MIRA, has given its 48 member towns until early April to decide whether to sign a five-year contract to remain with the agency as it transitions from burning trash in Hartford’s South Meadows to trucking trash out of state, or to find another option.

“I have regrets because I used to be on the board [at MIRA] and I respect the people there, but I think the situation is pretty untenable,” Griswold said. “I think if we can make a solid deal with favorable pricing, it will be in our best interest to do so.”

MIRA has offered towns a “tip fee” to haul their trash for $111 per ton next year – an increase from the $103 per ton fee this year. Without the revenues from the trash-burning energy plant, MIRA won’t be able to subsidize the costs as much as it has, and prices are likely to rise as a result. If towns opt to sign the five-year contract to stay with MIRA, they would be able to opt out any year if the price goes above a certain point. 

CWPM – which already collects trash and recycling from Old Lyme residents and businesses, and hauls it to Essex to be picked up by MIRA – offered to haul Old Lyme’s trash for $90 per ton, increasing $1.50 per ton each year. Griswold said CWPM has deals with trash-burning plants in eastern Connecticut, where it would take the town’s trash under the new contract.

Unlike MIRA, CWPM would charge a separate fee to pick up recycling, which varies based on how “contaminated” the town’s recycling supply is – either with non-recyclable materials or with recyclables thrown out in plastic bags, which Griswold said will just be treated as trash.

Even with the additional recycling fee, Griswold said he projected CWPM would cost significantly less money, and would save the town even more money each year as the MIRA fees continued to rise. He said with a 7 percent contamination rate in the recycling supply, the town could save $17,300 in the first year, $55,250 in the second, and $73,400 in the third year.

Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker said it would be important to keep educating residents on how to recycle to keep the contamination rate as low as possible, since a cleaner recycling stream would mean a lower rate for the town.