Commentary: Bring back the Garbage Museum
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This statement rings true in southwestern Connecticut — so true that we have an entire museum dedicated to garbage. Or, at least, we had a museum.
Sadly, the Stratford Garbage Museum, an environmental education resource, has fallen by the wayside. But I think it’s time to reopen and reuse the museum space for its original purpose — teaching children about the importance of protecting our environment. And I’m petitioning for support.
The Garbage Museum is an educational center that first opened in 1995. It was created as a community resource to encourage children and families to learn about the process and value of recycling.
In 2010 alone, it provided services to more than 30,000 adults and children. But after facing reduced funding, the museum was forced to close in August 2011. This was a major loss for our entire community.
Funding the museum's operation
Over the past few years, I’ve been working with the town and state to help the museum.
This year I proposed legislation that would have directly funded the museum reopening. In fact, the state Senate unanimously passed this legislation, which would have allowed the state to use tipping fees — the charges levied on a given quantity of waste — to direct the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority to reopen the museum.
Unfortunately, the clock ran out, and the bill was not taken up in the House of Representatives in time to meet the end-of-session deadline. So, the museum remains closed.
But the fight is not over. This fall, I’m launching an online petition to save the Garbage Museum. If you think our community needs to reopen this local treasure, I ask that you join my petition.
A towering 'Trash-o-saurus'
I want to reopen the museum so that my children can see and appreciate the museum’s centerpiece, a towering “Trash-o-saurus” sculpture made from a ton of trash — the average amount of trash one person makes annually.
I want to reopen the museum so that all kids in our community can walk through a giant compost pile, see recycling techniques first hand, and learn how to embrace an environment-friendly lifestyle.
I want to reopen the museum because it enhances education and learning in the region.
Ready to be reopened
The Garbage Museum currently sits untouched, ready to be reopened and reused. It was originally funded by the Southwest Connecticut Recycling Committee, a group of 19 local municipalities that sent recyclables to the regional recycling facility and supported the museum through deposit fees.
In 2009, about half of those municipalities pulled out of the group and began sending their recyclables to other facilities.
When funding began to drop as a result, the museum survived for a while using new funding sources, including a $2 admission fee. However, it was not enough to keep the museum open past 2011.
If we can use tipping fees, we can appropriately fund the museum and keep it open.
I think it’s time to make this museum a priority — for our children, for our environment and for our community.
If you want to help save the Garbage Museum, sign my petition on my website: www.ctsenaterepublicans.com/2014/09/reopen-the-stratford-garbage-museum-survey.
Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senatorial District, which includes all of Shelton as well as parts of Monroe, Seymour and Stratford. He can be reached at 800-842-1421, or Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov.