The following blog post was written by PleasantvilleRecycles.org member Sharon AvRutick.
We set aside our newspapers and magazines, rinse our cans and bottles and put them in a bin, check the code on all our plastics and carry everything to the curb on its appointed day. Sometimes it feels like a lot of effort, even for the staunchest recycling advocates. You may wonder if it all makes a difference. How are we doing with recycling in Westchester?
The short answer is: Thanks to you and a lot of people like you, we’re doing quite well. Last year, Westchester recycled 52 percent of its total solid waste stream. The New York state average is 36 percent and the EPA national goal is only 35 percent. (The Westchester figures, which come from Westchestergov.com, include both municipalities that are part of the county’s Refuse Disposal District as well as those that use private carters.)
Recycling saves us money. No one wants our garbage—we have to pay to get rid of it. The less we produce; the less we have to spend on getting rid of it. In addition, everything that is recycled is ultimately sold to a buyer, a source of revenue.
What Are We Recycling?
Almost half of what we recycled in 2011 were items left at the curb (paper, cans, bottles, yard waste), brought to organized events and Household Material Recovery Days (confidential document shredding, electronic collections), and metal extracted from garbage delivered at the county’s waste-to-energy plant. The balance of the material came from public works projects.
The county uses a variety of programs and facilities to gather and process recyclable materials.
Material Recovery Facility (MRF)
This is where aluminum (cans and foil); ferrous metal; plastics (1–7); glass containers; plastic bags; newspaper; corrugated cardboard; telephone books, assorted paper are processed. In 2011, MRF accepted 75,354 tons of material for processing. Revenues from the sale of recyclables were $7.4 million, a 26% increase compared to 2010.
Did you know about the boat wrap recycling program? Each spring, marinas along Long Island Sound and Hudson River bring the wrap, which is used to protect boats over the winter, to a designated collection point. The county collected 22.2 tons of plastic in this way, processed it at the MRF, and sold it to generate revenue.
Charles Point Resource Recovery Facility
This is where municipally and privately collected solid waste goes. The facility burns it at high temperature, extracts (and subsequently recycles) ferrous metals from the ash, and provides clean, renewable electricity to the City of Peekskill. In 2011, the facility processed more than 700,000 tons of solid waste to generate electricity, while almost 13,000 tons of ferrous metal was extracted from the ash residue and recycled.
Household Material Recycling Days
These events enable county residents to safely dispose of or recycle various household chemicals and other items needing special handling (electronics, TVs, mercury-containing devices, fluorescent bulbs, rechargeable batteries, BBQ tanks, car tires) In 2011, DEF offered three such events and collected 71 tons of hazardous materials; 154 tons of electronic waste, almost 15 tons of tires, and over 2 tons of expired or unneeded medications.
Going forward, residents should take advantage of the new permanent . Schedule appointments at environment.westchestergov.com/new-h-mrf.
The county’s Mobile Shredder is available at various locations throughout the county. Residents bring personal papers to be shredded and recycled. In 2011, a total of 12,330 households used the Mobile Shredder and over 636 tons of paper were shredded and recycled. The County sold the shredded paper for about $175 to $225 per ton.
Check environment.westchestergov.com/recycling-events for the Mobile Shredder’s upcoming schedule.
But That’s Not All
Thanks to these programs and many others, we’re doing well with recycling. And thanks also to all you composters—you lower the amount of food scraps in the waste stream. Everyone who reuses old items rather than throwing them out is helping, too, as are the people who avoid buying products with too much packaging. Every one of you is making a difference!
For more details on recycling in Westchester, check westchestergov.com. Also visit us at PleasantvilleRecycles.org, like us on Facebook, and sign up for our newsletters to learn about all sorts of opportunities to reuse and recycle.