Students Help Kick Off ‘Recycling Means Jobs’ Day


Future engineers meet with policymakers, businesses, other stakeholders

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Hartford seniors Ajla Rustemovic and Stephanie Fluker meet with DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty and DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith at Recycling Means Jobs Day.

Like the rest of their graduating class, Ajla Rustemovic and Stephanie Fluker have spent much of their time and energy getting ready for commencement ceremonies next month, college in the fall, and in Ajla’s words, “the real world beyond.”

Seniors at Hartford’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology,* the two have enhanced their academics with internships, job shadowing, and ongoing dialogue with professionals in the field they plan to pursue: engineering.

Making Connections

Connecting classroom learning to work being done in the community was the impetus behind sending Ajla and Stephanie to the State Capitol for Recycling Means Jobs Day.

Coordinated by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the program brought together legislators, business leaders, and agency officials with a mutual interest in growing the state’s recycling and waste recapture efforts, also known as materials management.

CBIA arranged for Ajla and Stephanie to staff a booth at the event and learn more about issues that are core components of their curriculum.

“It was great,” said Stephanie. “We were part of a conversation about the future of green technology right here in Connecticut.”

‘Green to Gold’

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, noted that materials management, which she called a “sweet spot in our economy,” accounts for 4,800 direct and indirect jobs in Connecticut, $746 million in sales, and nearly $60 million in tax revenue for the state.

DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, who puts Connecticut’s current recycling rate at 25%, said his agency’s goal is to “double that in the next five years” and turn recapture and reuse of waste materials into an economy of scale.

“We, together today, are launching a new economy”_the ‘green to gold’ economy,” he said.

Common Ground

Last April, Governor Dannel Malloy organized a Recycling Working Group to modernize the state’s solid waste system and materials management policies and expand Connecticut’s recycling and reuse economy. This legislative session, the group is delivering its policy recommendations for developing that economy.

One of those recommendations, which the governor announced at Recycling Means Jobs Day, is the establishment of a special council to drive materials management innovation and connect companies with products made from recycled materials. The Recycling Market Development Council comprises diverse local businesses that collect, haul, sort, process, buy, and sell recyclable materials.

According to the governor’s office, nearly a million tons of paper and other ‘blue bin recyclables,’ more than a million tons of construction and demolition debris, and at least a million tons of organics and other compostable materials are “locked in Connecticut’s waste stream: despite having significant value as recycled materials.”

In his speech at Recycling Means Jobs Day, the governor said, “Obviously, there’s an environmental side to this. There’s also a jobs side”_There is great growth potential.”

Stephanie and Ajla, whose school has a green team, maintains a community garden, and participates in the Great American Cleanup every year on Earth Day, were heartened to see a statewide ramping-up of similar efforts: with buy-in from businesses and policymakers.

“It’s exciting to see what goes on at the Capitol, talk to people, shake hands, see this side of the world,” said Ajla.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer and editor at CBIA. She can be reached at

* A National Academy Foundation school, AoEGT works to ensure that all students complete paid internships closely linked to their classroom learning. CBIA’s Education Foundation helps facilitate internships and other business-education partnerships between schools and member companies.

For updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs, click here.

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