Wilton Go Green has launched a new program in collaboration with several local retailers encouraging consumers to bring their own reusable cups when they purchase hot or cold drinks in town. Organizers hope the effort will help cut down on the use of disposable single-use cups that they say aren’t recyclable as many people mistakenly think.

To tackle excess waste on a community level, Wilton Go Green initiated its “Refill Not Landfill” program. Customers can bring in their own reusable mugs to local retailers when purchasing a beverage and in return are entered into a monthly raffle.

Cynthia Keating is the Wilton Go Green Board member who develped Wilton’s program. She explained that single-use coffee cups are often lined with plastic, which renders them as trash instead of recyclable, further increasing the growing amount of plastic waste in the environment. She cited statistics that billions of single-use coffee cups, along with their plastic lids and straws, are disposed of into landfills each year. Plastic runoff from waste plants then infiltrates and toxifies ecosystems, negatively impacting surrounding wildlife. She noted that Connecticut in particular is expected to ship 850,000 tons to out-of-state landfills each year.

“We are trying to encourage Wilton residents to embrace a lifestyle of environmental sustainability, and reducing the waste that we create in Wilton is a big part of those efforts,” Keating said. “We learned about ‘Refill Not Landfill’ programs in other Connecticut towns, like Middletown and Westport, and we thought that a similar program could help educate Wilton residents about the waste from single-use beverage cups and [with the raffle,] provide incentives for people to adopt the more sustainable habit of bringing a reusable cup with them when buying hot and cold drinks.”

To enter the raffle, customers simply scan a QR code at the register of participating retailers. The monthly prize is a $25 Wilton Chamber of Commerce gift certificate. Participating retailers include Bubble & Brew, Connecticut Coffee & Grill, Diamond Deli, Rise Doughnuts, Tusk & Cup, and Uncle Leo’s. Individuals can also purchase reusable mugs at a 10% discount from Signature Style and Open House Gift Shop.

Rise Doughnut owners Laura Malone and Hugh Mangum expressed their enthusiasm for Refill Not Landfill as a business that priorities sustainability.

“We want to have as minimal of an impact on the planet as we can, so we were really excited to join on with the program and that Wilton has taken this initiative.”

The program fits well with prior sustainability efforts Rise has made.

“In the back, we compost everything we can. Not a ton of waste from customers, as they usually eat all the doughnuts. What we serve the doughnuts in are either compostable or biodegradable, or post-consumer.”

Malone emphasized the correlation she sees between community sustainability and growing environmental concerns.

“I am so overwhelmed by the state of things and direction we are going in. […] There are solutions that should be mandatorily adopted. Obviously, it is a huge huge issue, and we have not perfected it, but when I am aware of a more sustainable option I try to implement it.”

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In keeping with Wilton Go Green’s overall mission, the goal of Refill Not Landfill is to
reduce plastic waste in the community while encouraging Wilton residents to practice sustainable living. Through events, programs, social media, and much more, Wilton Go Green brings awareness related to climate change’s impact on the environment. Beginning as a small group in 2010, the organization has made significant contributions to community sustainability, from organizing an annual festival, leading educational speaker series, implementing pilot composting programs, and much more.

Like many people, the Canadian wildfire smoke which permeated throughout the New York City Metropolitan area served as a visceral reminder for Malone of climate change’s impact, both now and in the future. She believes that as severe weather events will continue to grow more frequent due to excess carbon in the atmosphere, implementing sustainable solutions within the Wilton community is imperative.

“I have children who I want to have an enjoyable time on this planet,” she added.