middletownpress logo Cassandra Day March 18, 2022 Updated: March 18, 2022 7:24 p.m. Comments 3 middletownpress logo 1 of 3 The Middletown Recycling Department recently received a $1,500 grant from the Rockfall Foundation that will be used to purchase steel reusable coffee mugs to promote the Refill, Not Landfill, Coffee Passport Program. Recycling Coordinator Kim O’Rourke, left, was recently presented the foundation’s Tom ODell Distinguished Service Award. At right is foundation Executive Director Tony Marino. The Rockfall Foundation / Contributed photo MIDDLETOWN — The city’s recycling department head plans to secure reusable steel cups that residents can use to fill up their coffee mugs at participating businesses in an effort to reduce the use of disposable cups and help the environment. The project will be funded by a $1,500 grant from the Rockfall Foundation to support the Refill, Not Landfill, Coffee Passport Program, which will encourage their use in lieu of paper cups, according to Middletown Recycling Coordinator Kim O’Rourke. “That helps us to jump-start this whole program,” she said. SALE! Get an Entire 6 Months of Unlimited Digital Access for 99¢ ACT NOW The initiative, which also includes a passport, much like state wine and beer trails, is expected to begin between May and June. Before they’re given out, participants are required to sign a pledge and commit to using the mugs. Each time people use their cups, they will be entered into a monthly raffle for a chance to win a Downtown Business District gift card and products from Eco Reboot on River Road and Cinder + Salt on Main Street. The mugs, which can be “checked out” for a certain period of time, will be returned to various drop-off locations in the city to be cleaned, the recycling coordinator explained. After O’Rourke reaches out to every coffee shop in Middletown, she will identify which are interested in participating, she said. She’s conducting research to compile a comprehensive online guide, which will identify the shops will accept the reusable mugs. “We hope this will elevate the conversation,” she said. During the pandemic, many businesses stopped filling reusable cups to alleviate health and safety concerns, O’Rourke explained. “We’re going to sort that all out — who’s doing what, who allows you to bring your own cup, and if they offer a discount or not, do they allow it if you dine in; can you use a reusable cup,” she said. After the program is established, O’Rourke plans to “talk about going to the next level” by encouraging other local shops to participate. “There’s so much potential,” she said. The city is expected to earmark additional funds to implement the program, she added. Studies show there are no health concerns with reuse, O’Rourke explained during a recent Public Works Committee meeting. All communities in Connecticut are facing a trash disposal crisis, O’Rourke said at the meeting. In other parts of the country and the world, businesses offer reusable takeout cups that replace plastic, paper or foam containers, she added. “This is one step forward in starting that conversation,” O’Rourke said. “Hopefully, it opens the door for other reuse businesses to explore Middletown.” The Finance and Government Commission must first approve the proposal and Common Council members will take up the matter in March. 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