November 27, 2021

125 tons of cardboard recycled

Measures taken to reduce materials taken to Cortland County landfill

S.N. Briere/ staff reporter

Trisha Jesset, the Cortland County deputy highway superintendent, sorts through some recycling Wednesday afternoon taking out pieces of cardboard for composting. The county got the OK from the state to compost cardboard after it had to begin taking county recyclables to the landfill following several setbacks.

After a recycling center worker spread a load of materials across the floor Wednesday, Trisha Jesset, the Cortland County deputy highway superintendent, spent several minutes going through the pile and removing pieces of cardboard for composting.

“That has left us with a lot less quantity that we actually have to place in the landfill for the time being,” she said Tuesday during a Solid Waste Committee meeting. “We’re just trying to reduce that as much as possible.”

In fact, the county has now composted more than 125 tons of cardboard after the county was given the OK from the state Department of Environmental Conservation in February to begin composting cardboard rather than tossing it into the landfill.

The decision followed a fire early in January at a Taylor garbage facility in Tioga County that accepted the county’s recyclables, just days after the county had taken over operations at the recycling facility and implemented new recycling measures to reduce contamination. The fire destroyed the facility and the company is expected to have it rebuilt by August. Until then, the county then contracted with Bert Adams Disposal’s material recycling facility in Binghamton to fill the gap.

However, that facility reached capacity shortly after the agreement had been made.

Jesset said Bert Adams is beginning to haul a couple of extra loads, on top of what the hauler already picks up per a contract with the city of Cortland.

The county is also continuing to bale clean cardboard.

Jesset said the county first asked for a variance through DEC to haul 245 tons to the landfill — that variance is now down to 74 tons.

“Just to be transparent, that first request, the recycling center was full,” said Charlie Sudbrink, the county highway superintendent.

Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-Cortland) also suggested separating out metal cans and possibly working with Contento’s, which deals in scrap metal.

Both Jesset and Sudbrink were open to the idea Tuesday, but said Wednesday the process to implement a pilot project to see how it would work still needs to be figured out.

Sudbrink told legislators the conveyor used at the recycling center has a large magnet on it that could collect the tin.

However, it is not a money maker for the county, Jesset said, noting only about 5% of the county’s recyclables are metal.

Sudbrink and Jesset said the county must apply for that variance through the DEC every two weeks.

“During that two-week period, we’re communicating with alternate MRFs (materials recycling facilities), checking on prices, seeing if anybody can or has reduced their prices so it is feasible to bring it somewhere else,” Jesset said.

However, they have yet to find an affordable facility.

Jesset said other counties have taken notice of what Cortland is doing because hauling the recyclables to a facility, which then just disposes of them, can cost more than sending them to a local landfill.

“We’ve had multiple counties and other municipalities contact us on how to do it — how to get the variance,” Sudbrink said.