Confused about what can be recycled in CT? There’s an app for that

State and local officials announced the launch of The RecycleCT Wizard app at the West Hartford Yard Waste and Recycling Center on July 14, 2021.

State and local officials announced the launch of The RecycleCT Wizard app at the West Hartford Yard Waste and Recycling Center on July 14, 2021.

Contributed photo / Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Residents should have an even easier time figuring out what can go in their recycling bins with the launch of a new free app Wednesday.

The RecycleCT Wizard app builds on the website with the same name and is expected to double the number of inquiries by making the search engine more accessible. The app now makes the search option available on mobile devices and adds French, simplified Chinese and Portuguese to the available languages. English and Spanish are available on both.

“Now more than ever, increasing recycling, and decreasing contamination in our recycling stream is especially important for Connecticut residents,” Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said.

The website launched in 2017 and has had more than 707,000 searches. The top five searched materials so far are expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam), shredded paper, plastic bags, pizza boxes and plastic plant pots/trays, according to DEEP.

Both the app and original website are overseen by the RecycleCT Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to having people manage materials more sustainably by reducing, reusing, recycling and composting.

The RecycleCT Wizard App will tell users if items can be put in the recycling bin or not, offer tips for reusing certain materials and share contact information for local recycling coordinators and transfer stations so people can find out how to properly dispose of other items.

“Effective recycling is one of our most valuable tools to combat Connecticut’s waste disposal crisis,” Dykes said.

Dykes said DEEP convened the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management last year with more than 80 municipalities to explore sustainable materials management solutions. Increasing recycling was one of the main solutions discussed and even more localities added the RecycleCT Wizard search engine to their own websites to help residents better sort their recyclables and reduce contamination.

High contamination within the submitted recycling is driving up municipalities’ waste disposal and recycling costs, while also decreasing the value of other accepted recyclables.

Within Fairfield, John Marsilio, the interim public works director, said confusion has been a problem since the 1990s but increased recently as the list of accepted materials has grown. He estimates 20 to 25 percent of the items put in recycling bins or brought to the transfer station to be recycled isn’t actually recyclable.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick also addressed the issue in a recent town update.

“Fairfield pays close to $700,000 a year for our recycling programs, but a lot of our town recycling is contaminated — in other words there are multiple items in the blue bins that cannot be recycled,” she wrote. “Our recycling processor says that close to 25 percent of our recycling is contaminated — sometimes it is as simple as residents putting their recycling into plastic bags, which the processor then treats as waste even though the materials inside might be good recycling containers.”

The Northeast Recycling Council’s latest report showed the average cost to process a ton of materials in the region is $84. It also reported that the value of clean materials is 18 percent higher than contaminated materials.

“Recycling markets are up now,” said Jennifer Heaton-Jones, executive director of Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority and a RecycleCT board member. “Markets are rebounding after China’s National Sword policy and COVID-19. But we need to use the RecycleCT tools like the Wizard and new app to get cleaner material — meaning no trash in our recyclables — that’s the key.”

Contaminated recycling also creates unsafe working conditions and jams equipment at processing facilities.

The RecycleCT Wizard App can be downloaded through Apple and Google stores.

More information on recycling, what does and doesn’t go into the blue bin, and how to properly dispose of most items, can be found at RecycleCT.