What’s Behind Stamford’s 58% Rise in Garbage Collections Since 2013

Garbage being handled in Stamford (CT Examiner)


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STAMFORD – As population goes, so goes garbage volume.

The number of people living in Stamford a decade ago was about 126,000. Today it’s more than 137,000. 

The amount of garbage collected in 2013 was nearly 48,000 tons. Last year it was 76,000 tons.

So the population increased almost 9 percent, but the volume of garbage rose 58 percent.

An explanation for the disproportion lies not only in the rising number of residents, but in the city’s building boom, and in the state’s unsettled garbage market.

“The collection routes are longer, the volume is greater, and the loads are heavier,” said Dan Colleluori, Stamford’s director of recycling and sanitation. “We’re picking up more residences. We’re picking up more garbage downtown and in the parks.” 

Two years ago “we did almost 70,000 tons of garbage out the door. Last year it was 76,000 tons,” Colleluori said. “This year we projected 76,000 tons again, but it looks like it will be more like 85,000 tons. Is that from increased population density? Partially. It’s also from many more contractors bringing their garbage to us.”

Three years ago one of the area’s largest haulers, City Carting, folded into WIN Waste, a Portsmouth, N.H., company that operates eight other companies in New England. City Carting ran a transfer station in Stamford but WIN Waste closed it, Colleluori said.

“They changed the business model,” Colleluori said. “Since then, garbage collection companies are coming to us. We just got Finocchio Brothers nine months ago, and they bring in a heavy volume. They pay our tipping fee of $123 a ton when they come over the scale. It must be cheaper than the private transfer stations. Otherwise, why are they coming to us?”

Different types of commercial haulers are using Stamford’s Harbor View Avenue transfer station, he said. 

“We’re getting a lot of the moving companies,” Colleluori said. “JunkLuggers now owns a store in Stamford. They unload things from houses, take the good stuff and bring it to their store to sell, and they bring the garbage to our facility. We get three or four JunkLuggers trucks a day.”

One reason private haulers are using municipal transfer stations more is that the garbage market in Connecticut is changing.

In the summer of 2022 the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority shut down the state-owned trash-to-energy incinerator in Hartford. Prices for the power produced by burning garbage at the plant fell precipitously, and there were repeated mechanical breakdowns.

The closing led private haulers to municipal transfer stations. 

At the end of 2022, Darien officials raised the town’s tipping fee from $94 per ton to $118, saying the transfer station had processed 2,000 tons more garbage than the previous year. Commercial haulers began using the Darien transfer station after the MIRA plant closed, officials said.

In January Greenwich officials increased that town’s tipping fee for commercial haulers from $112 a ton to $119.

Stamford increased its tipping fee from $118 to $123 in October.

The city is dealing with increasing volume collected by its own crews and by commercial haulers who serve multiple new apartment high-rises, which the city does not pick up. There is a third source – contractors who are building and renovating housing units in the city, Colleluori said. 

 “Our revenues are up because of the contractors coming in,” Colleluori said. “We have more construction waste as well as regular household garbage. We are busier than ever.”

In fiscal 2022 revenue from tipping and other fees generated by Colleluori’s department amounted to $2.4 million. In fiscal 2023 it was $3.5 million. This fiscal year, revenue was projected to be $3.5 million again, but Colleluori revised it upward to $4.2 million. 

The budget for this fiscal year was based on a projection that garbage would amount to 76,000 tons. But that changed as the  months passed.

“Now it looks more like 84,000 or 85,000 tons for this year,” Colleluori said. 

Garbage volume has been escalating for years, he said.

“When I look at my spreadsheet, it goes back to maybe 2014 or 2015,” he said. “It has been progressively increasing since then.”

Data from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection show Stamford, as the second of Connecticut’s four largest cities, does generate a lot of garbage. DEEP’s data includes all garbage, residential and otherwise.

It shows that, in 2022, New Haven generated the most, 147,600 tons. Stamford generated 131,800 tons, followed by Hartford, 81,200 tons; and Bridgeport, 75,300 tons.

But Stamford’s recycling rate of 24 percent was significantly higher than New Haven’s 14 percent. So more recyclables were removed from the stream in Stamford, reducing garbage volume.

Recycling, though, has become a deficit, Colleluori said. That market collapsed when China halted the import of plastics, paper and other materials shipped to its recycling plants. China had been processing almost half of the world’s recyclables.

“It was a revenue stream for us until 2018,” Colleluori said. “Then it became an expense.”

For the coming fiscal year, Colleluori requested a budget of $17.9 million to handle garbage volume, but the mayor’s office reduced it to $16.4 million. The administration, however, accepted Colleluori’s projection of just under $5 million in revenue for 2024-25.

But, Colleluori said, the two rise together.

“If there’s more revenue, there’s more garbage,” he said.

Angela Carella

For 36 years prior to joining the Connecticut Examiner, Angela Carella was a beat reporter, investigative reporter, editor and columnist for the Stamford Advocate. Carella reports on Stamford and Fairfield County. T: 203 722 6811.