Study: Bedford recycles 19-23%

Shana Potvin and the Riddle Brook School’s Destination ImagiNation team were set up at the transfer station last Saturday on a mission: to increase the recycling efforts in Bedford.

The group watched from afar as a gentleman unloaded a cardboard box from his pickup truck and headed toward the garbage disposal. The DI team members of “Born Wild” rushed over, and within minutes, the man was at their recycling awareness station, signing their recycling pledge.

“Another one converted,” said Potvin, the team manager and a Bedford resident.

In a Feb 24, 2011, Bedford Journal article with Jim Stanford, director of Public Works, Stanford was asked what percentage of town waste is recycled.

“About 13 percent,” he said. “The town collected about 7,800 tons of ordinary municipal solid waste and about another 1,200 tons of commingled recyclables in 2011.”

To be sure, Potvin’s husband, Bill Vorias, an applied statistician and the vice president of client services at Loyalty Builders, conducted a study on Bedford’s recycled waste per household.

“The 13 percent statistic is hard to measure. People count different things as recycling, such as yard waste and refrigerators,” Potvin said. “My husband decided to focus strictly on household waste.”

The study cites resources such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau and Bedford’s Department of Public Works. In the study, Vorias reports that there is an estimated 2.9 people per household in Bedford, and there is 129.42 pounds per month per household of waste.

“Based on these calculations, I would estimate that the true recycling percentage in Bedford is between 19 and 23 percent,” Vorias said.

“It’s certainly not 100 percent,” Stanford said.

On Sept 1, 2008, Bedford began the Single Stream Recycling Program. According to Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, “single-stream recycling is a system in which all recyclable materials; fiber (newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper, catalogs, magazines and junk mail) and containers (glass, steel, aluminum and plastic) are placed, unsorted, in one recycling bin and sorted by state-of-the-art processing equipment at a regional recycling center.”

Casella Waste Systems, of New England and New York, collects Bedford’s recyclables to be processed at a plant in Massachusetts. Casella pays Bedford for the town’s recyclables depending on the items being recycled. As the market changes, the value of the recyclable items fluctuates.

“The recyclables are sold on the stock market as a raw good.” Potvin said. “If the volume is higher, the price is less.”

“The recyclables average about $20-$25 per pound” said Steve Crean from the Department of Public Works. According to Crean, Bedford pays to have its solid waste shipped to a landfill in Bethlehem. The landfill is operated under the name North Country Environmental Services and is a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems.

“The total amount Bedford pays to get rid of their trash is about $700,000 per year, and Bedford’s total revenue from recyclables is about $32,000 per year. You have to take the revenue plus the savings to see what the town is really making,” Crean said. “I encourage people to recycle as much as they can. Every time residents (recycle), they save almost $100 per ton, and that decreases their property taxes. The more they recycle, the less their taxes will be.”

“There’s a disconnect. People don’t think about where their trash goes after they throw it away,” Potvin said. “There’s been a leakage in the Bethlehem landfill, and now people can’t have their own well water to take showers or drink the water.”

On Earth Day weekend, the town’s recycling station was crowded with Bedford residents. Bedford High School senior Elizabeth Noyes collected recyclables such as wind chimes and various pipes to make her senior project, a sculpture made out of recyclables.

“Everyone in my family recycles,” Noyes said. When asked if there’s anything Bedford residents could do to increase recycling rates, Noyes said, “Pay a little more attention to see what you use.”

Bedford resident and trucking business owner Carmen Sarno was busy recycling waste from his business. “I see a lot of recycling going on. It’s definitely something to work on.” When asked how he felt about the single-stream recycling program in Bedford, Carmen said, “It’s easier.”

Riddle Brook School’s Destination ImagiNation team, “Born Wild,” recently won the Renaissance Award for its research and efforts on increasing recycling awareness in Bedford. Currently, the team is working on a recycling sign with the Department of Public Works to be placed above the transfer station.

After speaking with the Bedford’s Men’s Club, “Born Wild” plans to update its Facebook page with monthly statistics of Bedford’s recycling percentages. Visit the Facebook page at The team will compete at the Global Finals in May.

Katelyn Dobbs can be reached at 594-6549 or