Story: Talking Trash

Sandra Scott

By Sandra Scott
Written on 30 June 2008

A museum where talking trash is fun and informative.

Talking Trash

Talking Trash

Trash-O-Saurus - the 27-foot monster of trash at Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Garbage Museum.

Talking trash is fun and informative! Following the garbage truck down Honeyspot Road Extension in Stratford, CT, visitors might think they were going to the dump. And, they are right. The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Garbage Museum is a dump for recyclable items and the place for serious trash talk. The quasi-public agency was established to modernize Connecticut’s solid waste disposal system with the mission to protect the environment through state-of-the-art waste management, recycling, and education. The museum is the educational component.

Instead of following the truck to the dumping zone turn left to the visitor’s parking area. The blue dinosaur statue near the entrance to the museum may seem incongruous until entering the museum. Greeting guests is the museum’s mascot - Trash-O-Saurus. The 27-foot monster of trash was created from one ton of colorful castoffs – the amount discarded by one person every year. It was the work of a Pennsylvania artist and includes familiar items such as license plates, a “No Smoking” sign, car parts, and other discarded items recycled into an attention-getting work of art.

Never has trash been presented in such an appealing and colorful way. Many items in the one-room multi-area museum were constructed of recycled material including the carpeting and benches made from recycled plastic. The guide asks, “On the way in did you notice our glimmering sidewalk? It is made of recycled glass.”

While the interactive museum is geared for children – maybe as a way to entice adults to visit – the statistics and displays impact both adults and children.

The educational Three R’s have been joined by the environmental Five R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, rethink. The amount of trash – much of which can be recycled - is mind boggling. The people of Connecticut alone create over 5 billion pounds of waste each year. Every adult who has packed a school lunch will feel the impact of the pyramid of 188 juice boxes taken to school by one student each year. Multiply that times the number of students in the United States and the number of juice boxes in the landfills in enormous. Students are encouraged to switch to reusable drink containers. Adults can do their part by using reusable coffee cutting down on the Starbucks’ and McDonald’s coffee containers in landfills.

A giant compost pile mockup that visitors can walk though explain how a compost heap should be made and how it works. Nearby is a real compost pile with live red critters busily turning lettuce and coffee grounds into dirt.

Walking along the glass enclosed skywalk in the cavernous work area, visitors watch an assembly line of workers sorting glass, plastic, metal, and newspapers. “There is no need to wash recyclable items or to remove the paper labels. The heat used to melt them down will take care of that,” the guide explains. At the end of the line items are crushed and baled for shipping to processors where they are turned into products. Pointing to a large bale of newspapers, the guide continues, “That one bale of paper is equivalent to 17 trees. And look at all bales stacked up waiting to be shipped, and that is just the today’s amount in this one plant. Imagine what we could be recycled worldwide and how it would decrease the amount in landfills.” During the tour truck after truck offloads more recyclable items to be sorted, compacted, and transported to processing plants.

Visitors leave knowing more about trash than they ever wanted to know but with a new awareness of the amount of trash generated and with a few easy-to-do suggestions that they can do to reduce the amount of trash to the benefit of the environment. Trash will never seem the same again. An old New England saying is apropos to managing solid waste: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

CRRA Garbage Museum
1410 Honeyspot Road Extension
Stratford, CT 06615

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Talking Trash

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