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Welcome To Westport, Conn., Where They Recycle In Ways You’ve Never Seen

Why Sort When You Can Lump Everything Together And Not Pay A Dime For It?
Westport Recycling

The people of Westport, Conn., have a unique — and free — way of dealing with their recyclable materials. They throw everything together and let the professionals sort them all out. (Photo: CBS 2)

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WESTPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — In New York City, like most places, you still have to sort your recyclable trash: paper, plastic and bottles. But how would you feel about not having to bother?

As CBS 2’s Lou Young found out on Thursday, the town of Westport thinks it has a cure for that particular type of “separation anxiety.”

On recycling day you’ll notice something probably a lot different from the way it works at your house.

“Everything goes in one place now. It’s great!” resident Carol Dulce told Young.

That’s right. Paper, plastic and glass all in the same mix. No separate bins. The very thing that will get you a fine in some towns had been encouraged here since last July — and it’s wildly successful.

“It’s a no-brainer. You have a newspaper? You throw it in the bin. You have a can. You throw it in the bin. You have glass? Same thing,” sanitation worker Mark Allen said.

There was a time when separating the different types of recyclables seemed to make a lot of sense, but it turns out our not having to separate the stuff makes us more likely to recycle.

In fact, people are a lot more likely. In Westport recycling is up 167 percent over last year and trash sent to landfills is down by half. The recyclables destined to be sold as raw material are sorted by machine at a state recovery facility in Hartford.

“That’s how we separate cardboard from the rest of the mix. The bigger pieces cascade over the top and the bottles, the cans and the newspapers drop down and go to a new set of screens,” resource recovery manager Ron Santos said.

And what’s more, the public doesn’t pay for it.

“Not a dollar. We’re completely self-funded. In a good year, when money is really coming in, we’re able to pay rebates to cities and towns,” said Paul Nonnenmacher of Connecticut Resource Recovery.

And this year that could mean up to $20 a ton. Call it “cash for trash” in a landscape where tax money is getting harder to come by.

Five Fairfield towns and the City of Bridgeport could get those rebates this year.

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