Day Tripping: CRRA Trash Museum

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Thu., Jul. 11, 2013
The temple of trash at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Trash Museum shows what an old dump looks like from decades ago. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
The temple of trash at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Trash Museum shows what an old dump looks like from decades ago. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

There's that old saying that goes, “one man's trash is another man's treasure." There's also a more recent addendum to this saying that goes, “one man's trash is another man's exhibit at the trash museum” - literally.

Enter Dave Chameides. Originally from Connecticut, Chameides was living in California in 2008 when he decided to save all of his trash for one year in his basement. Chameides called this project “365 Days of Trash,” and when the year was over he “donated” his trash to the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Trash Museum in Hartford, where it has been incorporated into an exhibit.

All of the trash that Chameides – or “Sustainable Dave,” as he is also known – saved during the year is displayed in a large suitcase that sits on the floor in front of a mural painted by artist Ted Esselstyn of Higganum. In total, Chameides had accumulated just 28.5 pounds of trash during 2008 – a stark contrast to the nearly 2,000 pounds of trash that the average person generates in a year. And to further show the amount of waste that the average person creates, Esselstyn saved all of his trash from painting the mural and incorporated it into the display as well – all 30 pounds of it.

The mural about Sustainable Dave is just one of the many entertaining and informative exhibits at the CRRA Trash Museum, located at 211 Murphy Road in Hartford. The museum is located off of exit 27, off I-91 in Hartford, just a quick drive from the exit ramp. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m in July and August, and is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m from September to June. Admission is $4 per person and free for children under the age of 2.

The museum has been open since 1992 and is geared toward children in elementary school through middle school, according to Sotoria Montanari, the education supervisor for the museum. The museum features a number of hands-on, interactive exhibits for children of all ages to enjoy.

“You can see a real-life recycling processing center, so you can see the connection between what you put in your recycle bin and where it ends up,” said Montanari. “And then there are a lot of fun activities to do with your kids.” The recycling processing center is connected to the museum and all visitors can observe the center at work from a viewing room on the second floor of the museum.

Montanari says the children really enjoy seeing the large trucks moving materials around and dumping them into various piles. “We take paper, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, cardboard, box board – which is like your cereal boxes – aluminum cans, steel cans, every plastic one through seven, and then we also take large rigid plastics which are your toys or large recycle bins which can no longer be used,” added Montanari.

After the materials are sorted, they are baled and sold so they can be made into new products. Montanari estimates the plant processes about 300 tons of recyclables a day, five days a week. She said the plant processed 120,000 tons of recyclables last year.

After the children have observed the processing center, they can role-play in the discovery room downstairs, which features a mock crank conveyor belt like the one they just saw. The children can dress up with safety vests, jackets, hats and goggles and pretend like they are sorters.

Once the children have grasped the concept of recycling, they can move onto the energy exhibit where they see the real value of recycling. There is a large scale that family and friends can stand on to weigh themselves and pretend they are an aluminum can and see how much energy they would save by recycling materials instead of producing them from scratch using natural resources.

“It's just like if you were to make paper from a tree, there's a resource,” explained Montanari. “It's not just the cutting down of a tree and saving a tree, it's the resources involved in making the paper.”

Children and families can further see the impact of recycling by visiting and Other highlights of the museum include a craft room where kids can decorate masks made from paperboard such as old cereal boxes, and the temple of trash which greets you as you walk through the door.

The temple of trash represents a dump from years ago, complete with trash that is decades old. Visitors can even challenge themselves to a scavenger hunt in the temple of trash by picking up a card that details the items they need to look for.

For more information on the CRRA Trash Museum, call 860-757-7765 or visit

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