The world of solid waste has been making a lot of news this summer, between the current issues surrounding recycling, the increased landfilling of trash in upstate facilities (with their associated problems), and a new effort to begin cleaning up the tons of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. While perhaps mundane, these topics are ones that affect all persons and businesses.
It shouldn't be surprising. Between the haulers and municipalities around the country not taking China's warnings about not accepting "foreign garbage" posing as recyclables going back to "Operation Green Fence" five years ago, "Operation National Sword" is now in place, and 0.5 percent contamination is all they'll accept. The result: Boatloads of stuff are being turned away, with countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia imposing new quality standards, and dealing with processing backlogs. To overcome this in the U.S. will take at least six years, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America.
What does this mean to you? Besides the prospect of higher disposal as well as recycling costs, it means you can't put just anything in the bin/cart/Dumpster and hope it'll be taken care of, just-for-you. It won't. In Monroe County, some 3,000 tons of "junk recycling" has to be landfilled annually due to confusion, carelessness and lenience. Multiply that by 3,000 other counties and you can forget the ideas of landfills closing anytime soon.
Even more mystifying is the handwringing over the proposed waste-to-energy plant proposed for a part of the former Seneca Army Depot. Unlike the landfills, WTE plants don't produce odors, don't attract disease-carrying birds, operate on a smaller footprint, and generate electricity from Day 1, as opposed to 12 years later as was the case at Riga/Mill Seat. To calm the "experts" who've never been to a WTE facility, the developers should copy the new Copenhill Amager Bakke plant in Copenhagen, as described in the April 17, 2017 Wall Street Journal. This will convert 400,000 tons of waste into heat for 150,000 homes, and low-carbon electricity for 550,000 people. It also holds one of the world's largest year-round ski slopes. In the summer, the roof will have green forest areas and a hiking trail — all of this in an interesting "reverse swoosh" design. In other words, it's safe.
Being very careful about what you recycle and how will help produce clean loads that'll be esay to process. And if you want to compost more, consider using paper yard waste bags, reusable containers, or bulk pickup at leaf time. Paying more attention to what gets thrown out will, in time, ease the stresses the solid waste industry currently faces.
Jeff Goldblatt of Rochester is a member of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse & Recycling (NYSAR) and the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management, as well as Solid Waste Association-North America.