Eco Talk: Your input wanted for waste management plan in Cayuga County
Jenna DeRario Special to The Citizen
Solid waste disposal most likely is not a conversation starter; however, it is an issue that affects every facet of our community. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, “solid wastes are any discarded or abandoned materials.” Examples of solid waste are garbage, construction and demolition debris, tires, recyclable material, paint, appliances and furniture, among others. Households, businesses, schools, government offices and libraries are among the countless spaces that need to promote proper management of solid waste materials to create a safe and healthy environment.
The Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development is currently updating the countywide Local Solid Waste Management Plan. The plan is a state-mandated document that provides an outline of solid waste disposal services available to residents and institutions, analyzes the amount of solid waste generated within the county, and recommends changes to existing solid waste management programs and goals, or develops new implementation strategies. The state DEC requires that these plans be updated periodically to ensure the most recent information is available for each community.
Solid waste management involves several steps for safe waste disposal. The first step is to reduce waste. This can be done by avoiding single-use items and reducing overall consumption. Manufacturers play an important role in source reduction, where lightweight packaging and redesigning products can reduce waste generation before it gets to the consumer.
The next step is reusing items before throwing them out. This will reduce waste generation and the amount of material that is ultimately disposed in a landfill. That sweater that you don’t want anymore could be a great, new addition to someone else’s wardrobe.
The third step is to recycle as many materials as you can that you are unable to reuse. Composting food scraps is one method of recycling, as it creates soil material from used food products. Recycling glass, metals and cardboard is a critical action to extract materials that can be used again in new products. Buying items that are made of recycled material is an integral step to form a closed loop economy.
The production of these items provides benefits such as conserving natural resources, developing green technologies and jobs, and reducing the amount of waste sent to sanitary landfills in the final step of the solid waste management process. Disposal in a sanitary landfill is the least preferred method for solid waste management due to their limited space and the loss of resources that could have been recycled or reused but instead will now be unavailable.
The state DEC emphasizes waste reduction in its latest Solid Waste Management Plan to reduce the amount of solid waste that is disposed in a sanitary landfill. Steep reductions in waste generation and disposal will require collaboration with community stakeholders, state agencies and local governments. The DEC has mandated 69 planning units to be responsible for updating and implementing a Local Solid Waste Management Plan that aims to reach the state’s overarching waste reduction goals. Cayuga County, as one of the planning units, is responsible for providing an updated plan that includes all the municipalities within the county.
The plan will outline the current waste disposal services that are available for residents in the county and analyze the current rate of waste generation. Then it will look toward the future, and develop a series of recommendations emphasizing waste reduction. These can include new programs or focus on the improvement of current programs.
To develop the plan, we are looking for input from residents on their current solid waste disposal services, such as household trash and recycling. All Cayuga County residents are invited to participate in the survey, which will be open until Nov. 1. However, we do ask that only one survey be completed per household.
The survey can be found at cayugacounty.us/survey. Thank you for taking the time to fill out the survey. Your answers will remain anonymous and will be taken into full consideration during the process to update the Cayuga County Local Solid Waste Management Plan. If you have further questions about the survey or the Cayuga County’s solid waste management program, please contact me at (315) 253-1203.
Jenna DeRario is a planner with the Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development.