Trash Talking

February 18, 2010

Over the years I’ve had many legislative proposals come before me regarding trash hauling, using land fills and expanding recycling, but this past year I really jumped into the subject of waste management with both feet. As co-chairman of the Program Review and Investigations Committee, I have had the opportunity to oversee the research and writing of a comprehensive report dealing with waste management services in Connecticut. While hearing from experts and folks who work in the field was a very important part of learning about waste management, the tour I took of USA Hauling & Recycling, Inc., headquartered in Enfield, really opened my eyes to what goes on in refuse facilities on a daily basis.

John Pizzimenti, Manager of Environmental Services, took me to three different waste management locations one frigid morning last month. We met at the headquarters in Enfield where I toured the offices and met with some of the great employees there. We then headed out to their facility in East Windsor that processes construction and demolition debris where Jonathan Murray, Director of Operations, met up with us and gave me a tour. Seeing all those workers quickly sorting through lumber, metal, plastics and sheet rock from demolished buildings in the freezing cold really puts the term “hard work” in perspective. Approximately 50% of the material they accept is recycled back into usable materials. It was an amazing operation and the workers were all very positive amidst the dust and din of the conveyors. From there we went to our final destination, the recycling facility in Berlin which USA Hauling spent $4 million on last year retrofitting for future expanded single-stream recycling needs.

The people who work at these facilities have one of the hardest jobs I have ever seen – and my first job at 14 was picking tobacco – but the work they do has had a huge impact on the recycling industry in our state. Cans, bottles, newsprint, milk jugs made with a specific kind of plastic, pizza boxes, lots of pizza boxes, and everything else you can imagine – including some really unimaginably gross garbage – all of this is separated either by hand or by optically-scanning mechanical magic. Single-stream recycling is incredibly convenient for most of us, but for those who work in the facilities that accept those materials, their job is often deafening, freezing in winter, torrid in summer, and requires taxing manual labor. I was so impressed with the workers in all the facilities and it really made me think about how much we may take for granted.

USA Hauling is a significant employer in north-central Connecticut and throughout our state, employing approximately 100-150 people from the greater Enfield area alone. As science progresses even further, the waste management industry will certainly continue to undergo major changes, but companies like USA Hauling have shown they are ready and able to adapt to new technologies and policies.