New York State: Extra trashy

A new report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation gives New York low marks for recycling, the Times Herald-Record's Adam Bosch reports.

On average, the United States recycles about 33 percent of its municipal solid waste, not including construction and demolition debris. New York recycles 20 percent.

The state's ability to divert trash from landfills looks even worse when historical goals are considered: In 1987, New York aimed to recycle 50 percent of waste by 1997.

Undeterred by the state's utter failure to meet its recycling goal in 1997, the DEC has set a new one: 90 percent by 2018.

New York State's throwaway mentality is costing us big time, both in rapidly-shrinking landfill space and in actual dollars. In April, a blogger at Sustainable Esopus crunched some numbers and calculated that each ton of landfilled waste cost the town of Esopus over six times as much a ton of recycling:

In 2008 and 2009 combined, Esopus spent, on average, $15.98 per ton of recyclables and $102.89 on municipal solid waste (ie, landfill). In other words, it cost $0.16 cents to recycle for every dollar it cost to landfill waste.

In calendar year 2008 and 2009, the Esopus transfer station ran a $91,000 combined deficit, a loss which is borne by local taxpayers. The cost to landfill waste amounted to 46% of that cost, and the cost of contracting for its operation was 52%.The cost of recycling was just 1.5%.

A bright spot in New York State's litany of trashy woes: The state comptroller's office recently issued a press release bragging that Delaware County's municipal composting facility, the only one in the state, has saved the county $35.3 million since it was built in 2005, and extended the life of the county landfill by 17 years.

County chairman (and Harpersfield town supervisor) Jim Eisel couldn't resist seizing the chance to trash-talk some unspecified "environmentalists," a group that presumably does not include anybody in county government:

"This was good news for a change," Eisel said. "Just imagine — Delaware County went green long before the environmentalists thought of it. The environmentalists say no to everything and have no alternate solutions. We came up with a solution."

In case you really can't get enough of New York State's recycling problem, the DEC is offering its nearly 500-page roadmap for recycling in the state, "Beyond Waste," free for download on their website. We've also loaded it into Scribd, so you can read it below. The agency is accepting public comments on the report until August 16.

Draft New York State Solid Waste Management Plan