It only smells if you are doing it wrong.
Scratch that excuse off the list.
Composting organic materials is not difficult and would make practical use of what becomes basically unusable when mixed with other refuse. Smell, effort, education, and cost are just distractions for why Hartford could not evolve, so why not deal with those openly?
Green material — like fruit, vegetables, and coffee grounds — when mixed with brown material — like cardboard, newspaper, and leaves — balances. Moving this all into a container with a latching lid would keep odors under control and rodents out.
There is nothing wildly different happening here, except that what people are already disposing of would be placed in a separate container instead of mingled with things like soiled disposable diapers and certain plastics.
Nobody should expect 100% participation. There are still folks who do not bother to recycle, even though the single-stream recycling process in Hartford requires residents do nothing beyond place all those materials in one bin and roll it to the curb once each week. This convenience far outweighs the old model of needing to separate newspaper from other paper, cans from glass, aluminum from all else. The people who want to do right will when given the means. Those who do not care can be reminded that recycling is the law.
Knowing how to dispose of trash and what to recycle is a process of continuous education. Residents receive postcards reminding them to not toss syringes and motor oil into the trash. Those who make mistakes are reminded of the regulations.
We never see 100% compliance with speed limits either, but that does not mean we should abandon the concept because some ignore the rules.
If anything, we should continue to move forward.
This year Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass what the DEEP calls “comprehensive mattress recycling legislation.” This directly impacts Hartford because mattresses are often illegally dumped on our streets and sidewalks, in parks, and anywhere else that police are not directly watching at the moment. Why here? Neighboring towns charge disposal fees. The lack of respect for Hartford merged with the incentive to save money results in mattresses everywhere. Making it easier to recycle mattresses than for people to ditch them in vacant city lots makes sense.
So does organic waste collection.
If you are thinking this is one more thing to confuse yourself with, consider the system currently in place.
Hartford already collects Christmas trees and leaves. From October 28 through December 6 — dates sometimes change if storms interfere with collection — leaves will be vacuumed from the curb. This does not actually mean all residents should leave leaves at the curb for six weeks. If you go to the City website, you can enter your street information and learn exactly when pickup is scheduled. If you miss your two collection days, you have five chances to get leaves picked up curbside if they are placed in paper — not plastic! — bags; that starts on October 21. If you can remember none of that or if your trees do not feel like adhering to the City’s schedule, you can drop off your leaves at the Bulky Waste & Recycling Center at 180 Leibert Road, every Tuesday through Saturday from 9am-2pm, but you will need a Green permit. For the permit, you’d need to visit 40 Jennings Road, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-12noon.
Residents can pick up compost-mulch, free of charge, to enrich the soil in gardens and yards. No need to spend the money buying it at expensive landscaping centers. The organic collection would increase the supply of available composted material for gardeners, which in turn helps Hartford residents to confront some food security issues.
Currently it is legal to compost in the city, but not every resident has sufficient yard space for a pile or bin. Those who are renting must be granted permission first from the building owner before composting on the property. People who want to divert reusable resources from the waste stream need other options, as most Hartford residents rent and those who do not typically have small yards.
Having a curbside organic collection program would not make Hartford a trailblazer, but it would be ahead of many other cities. Austin, Texas is running a one-year pilot program; three neighborhoods in Brooklyn have just begun participation in a voluntary pilot program there. San Francisco has had a mandatory composting ordinance. There are dozens of other cities that have gotten on board with this.