October 24, 2021

Homer is recycling trash, and that’s a problem

Recycling stock image

Hey, Homer, the recycling bin isn’t for trash, so stop putting trash in it or it might cost you.

“We’ve had to reject a couple of loads from Syracuse Haulers in the last month and they pick up from the village of Homer,” Cortland County Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink said at a meeting Tuesday of the Cortland County Legislature’s Solid Waste Committee meeting Tuesday. “We charged them $200 to dispose of the first load they brought and the very next week we had to reject a load because it was full of residential garbage.”

He said part of the issue could be that people who have a full trash can will put the extra trash in the recycling bin. However, Syracuse Haulers uses an automated truck and people don’t get out to check to see what’s in the bins.

“So I’m going to work with the village on educating the residents a little better because Syracuse Haulers claims they’re just going to charge the village whatever we charge them,” Sudbrink said. “It’s still taxpayer money getting wasted.”

Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said the village is aware of the issue and that Syracuse Haulers is working on a new flier to give out. Until then, McCabe said he will tell village residents to recycle only cardboard “and nothing else from now on until things get sorted out and we stop getting charged these extra fees.”

“It’s a shame that the recycling program here in Cortland County has gotten so bleak, but it is not limited to Cortland, and I hope people understand that,” he said in an email. “It’s something we are trying to figure out a solution to. … And is another reason we might want to bring trash and recycling in-house, that way we could take both to facilities that would charge us less. We need to figure out a way to keep taxes flat here in the village, or as flat as possible. So no option is off the table at this point.”

Sudbrink also gave some other recycling updates.

Recycling delayed

The county took over recycling center operations in January and three days later a fire destroyed the Taylor Garbage Services facility in Tioga County that took the county’s recyclables. The county has since been working with Bert Adams Disposal in Binghamton to take all of the city of Cortland’s recycling and as many other loads as it can from the center — but about half the county’s recyclables are still sent to the landfill.

Taylor Garbage had planned to reopen its facility in August but now may not happen until late fall, Sudbrink said.

“Unfortunately due to COVID things are backed up a little bit,” Sudbrink said. The building is supposed to be complete by July, but fire-safety features cannot be installed until mid-August.

“So instead of being open in August he’s thinking realistically late fall,” Sudbrink said.

Recycling coordinator

A recycling coordinator position left vacant when Renee Parks left the position in January after several months to take a post as a scale operator at the county landfill instead will remain vacant, probably for the rest of the year.

The coordinator oversees center operations and educates the public about recycling, including what would be accepted when the county took control of operations from Casella Waste Systems at the beginning of the year.

County Administrator Rob Corpora said in April filling the position is on hold until the county gets past the COVID-19 pandemic because it was not a necessary position.

Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-Cortland) asked whether the plan is to keep the post empty for the rest of the year.

“Most likely,” Sudbrink said.

Crushed glass

The county began mandatory glass separation in January, but people are still able to drop it off to a large container outside the recycling center.

Sudbrink said the county is going to do another audit July 1 on glass separation and recycling. He said an audit in the spring showed less than 5% of glass was in the recycling stream.

“So a lot of people are complying,” Sudbrink said.

The glass is used for covering at the landfill.

Cardboard and paper composting

After Taylor Garbage caught fire in January the state Department of Environmental Conservation allowed the county to kick-sort some of the cardboard that couldn’t be baled and compost it. It also added mixed paper.

Sudbrink said the cardboard is being mixed with wood chips from the city and from when the county cuts trees. The county has created 115 tons of compost and baled 80 tons of cardboard.

“All I can say is it’s working,” he said.