By State Representative Aimee Berger-Girvalo
With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act by Congress this week, we will see the largest investment ever in climate change by the federal government. This is particularly exciting for us in Connecticut where innovation has been a hallmark for generations. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin may be the best known invention in our history, but there are many more recent examples.
For me, this effort to mitigate the impacts of carbon on our world is a critical investment in our future. Fortunately, it is also an opportunity to expand our economy today.
One recent example of such innovation has a direct connection to your home. For years, that empty glass jar of pickles or pasta sauce that you wash out and put in your recycling bin was a problem for Connecticut’s recycling facilities. It often broke into small pieces and could not be separated from other recyclable items, or was too contaminated to be reshaped into a glass bottle, so, at best, it was used as landscape cover. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sent a call for help.
Thanks to Connecticut innovation and ingenuity, there are now solutions to the problem. For one, that glass can now be delivered to the Urban Mining facility in Beacon Falls and processed into a pozzolan that reduces the use of cement in concrete. O&G Industries, another Connecticut company, can take that product and create low carbon concrete. We did our part right here in Ridgefield by using this advanced technology for the concrete footings at the new solar ASP composting facility recently constructed at our transfer station.
Cement is responsible for 7% of the global warming emissions in the US. This pozzolan can replace up to 50% of the cement in concrete and reduces carbon emissions by a ton for every ton used. Additionally, recent tests show that concrete made in this way lasts significantly longer than traditional concrete. This local, circular economy is exactly what we need to create jobs while solving our environmental problems and it came from our backyard.
Another example comes from down the road in Norwalk at Van Dyk Recycling Solutions, who is working with packaging firms to allow us to collect even more products that are difficult to recycle now. For example, the optical scanners that sort the products you toss into your bin, struggle to recognize black plastic. They are working now with manufacturers to inject a slight tint into those products in a way to increase the efficacy of the scanners — a local solution to a national problem.
To quote former US Representative Barbara Jordan, “For all its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.” Connecticut’s leaders and workforce are living that spirit by working to make the future better.
Government is not the solution to all our problems, but by working together with thought leaders in the private sector, we can make a difference. I’m excited to continue to encourage this innovation through my work on the General Assembly’s Environment Committee.
State Representative Aimee-Berger Girvalo represents the 111th district, which is fully contained within Ridgefield.