December 1, 2021

Recycling changes ahead

Haulers, residents prepare for county takeover in January

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Bo Nelson, who works at the Virgil Transfer Station, explains to Judy Jackson that a glue bottle she had was not recyclable because it still had some glue in it. The Cortland County Highway Department will take over the recycling center operation Jan. 1 and recently finalized which items they will accept.

Bo Nelson picked up a small plastic cookie container and crunched it in front of Judy Jackson.

“Crunchy is garbage,” he said. Then he picked up a milk jug removing the cap and squeezed it.

“Squeezable is recyclable,” he said.

Nelson, who runs the Virgil Transfer Station on Van Donsel Road, tries to talk to everyone who stopped by to drop off recyclables and trash about the new changes coming once the county highway department takes over operation of the recycling center from Casella Waste Management after Dec. 31.

The biggest hurdle leading up to taking over the center has been determining what the county will accept, said Recycling Coordinator Renee Parks. She recently finalized the list, which Bo Nelson was handing out to everyone that stopped by the transfer station earlier this week.

Now that the department has figured that out, the next big hump to get over will be educating people. Nelson said people in Virgil have been understanding about the changes that are coming.

“I think I can get almost everybody here in Virgil turned over — we won’t be 100% but we’ll be 80%,” he said. Jackson said she doesn’t think it will be too hard to get used to what will be accepted and there’s always Nelson at the station to help someone out.

“Bo makes it clear,” she said. “Every time I come, he helps me.”

Haulers will also need to get used to the changes.

“Obviously if they have a lot of recyclables they aren’t going to go through them they’re just going to dump them in the truck,” Parks said. “We’ll give them warnings at first, but that’s why we’re trying to start now.”

Parks said the county has been meeting with the haulers throughout the year and another one is in the works for December.

Dave Spoor, the route manager for Elite Services of Tully, said the company is ready for the change for its 2,000 Cortland County customers.

Material accepted for recycling

  • Glass must be separated from other recyclables, cleaned and discard lids, caps and tops.
  • Only plastic containers with lids, caps and tops will be accepted. They must be cleaned, dried and the lid, cap or top removed.
  • Metal containers must be clean and dry. Discard lid, cap or top.
  • Mixed paper will be accepted, but hard covers must be re- moved. It must be clean and dry.
  • Shredded paper will be accepted in a bag.
  • Cardboard must be flattened, clean and dried. No wax coated or food or grease stained boxes.
  • E-waste recycling will still be accepted.

For a more comprehensive list of what is and isn’t accepted, go to

Source: Recycling Center Coordinator Renee Parks

“We’re all set up for separating,” he said. “We actually put a letter together for our customers that glass has to be separated for Cortland County. Change is a little bit hard for everyone in the beginning and it’s something that will just have to be worked on.”

Bert Adams Jr., an owner of Bert Adams Disposal, said he’s not opposed to the changes.

“I guess everybody thinks everything needs to be recycled, but they don’t see the other side — recycling comes with a cost,” he said. “Glass wears out the recycling equipment so that should go as garbage.”

He said the commodity prices for recycled materials isn’t what it used to be, noting he used to get anywhere from $120 to $150 a ton for cardboard, now he gets $30 a ton and that it actually costs him $15 a ton to haul newspapers when he used to profit $60 to $80 a ton picking it up.

Adams is the service provider for residents of the city of Cortland.

Pat Leach, a co-owner of Leach’s Custom Trash, said they are prepared for the change, but they think that Casella did a good job.

“It’s going to be tough for the county to match up to what they’ve been able to do,” Leach said.

Parks said the idea of the county taking over the recycling center isn’t to make money — just to be more efficient.

“We’re going to try and run as smoothly as we can but there’s going to be quirks,” she said. “The first month or two is going to be a learning process for all of us.”