October 23, 2021

Highway superintendent: Rise of $5 per ton of solid waste needed

County looks at tipping fee hike

Kevin Conlon/city editor

A truck is weighed Tuesday on the scale at the Cortland County landfill on the Solon/Cortlandville border.

Cortland County waste-makers could pay between $5 and $10 more per ton of solid waste so the county could continue recycling electronics, and allowing people to dispose of mattresses and fluorescent light bulbs.

Cortland County Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink said Tuesday the county needs to raise the fee $5 per ton from its current $80 a ton to cover. An additional $5 or more would be needed to continue electronics recycling, and for mattresses and fluorescent lights.

The tipping fee was last raised in 2018, to $80 a ton from $65 a ton, when the county enacted flow control, requiring trash generated inside the county to be taken to the county landfill in an effort to reduce losses at the facility.

The county took in 34,637 tons of municipal solid waste in 2019, county records show. Based on that tonnage, a $10-per-ton increase would generate more than $346,000 in revenue.

“The way I understand flow control and I always have, is flow control is supposed to take care of all solid waste and that includes recycling. And the easiest thing to do would be to raise the tipping fee to take care of fluorescent light bulbs, to take care of mattresses, to take care of all of solid waste,” Sudbrink told the Highway and Solid Waste Committee.

However, so far this year, the county has paid $107,000 to take care of electronic recyclables the entire cost after the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced it would no longer cover half the bill.

Sudbrink said the county should also look into properly disposing of fluorescent light bulbs and box springs and mattresses.

Originally, Sudbrink said he had planned to get a bulb crusher, which would crush the bulbs and then package them in a 55gallon drum.

However, Sudbrink said the DEC told him that the equipment wouldn’t be covered under a grant, and Sudbrink said he decided not to buy the equipment without one given the county’s budget issues.

He said that once a bulb is crushed, though, it is considered hazardous waste.

“There are a handful of states where it is illegal to put bulbs in the landfill because they do have mercury,” he said. Recycling them is possible, but costs about $1 a bulb.

“They send you the box, the guys package them,” he said. “You get 144 bulbs in a box but it’s $110, so roughly $1 a bulb without labor.”

Another issue is mattresses. Sudbrink said a box spring caused $5,000 in damage to one of the trucks at the landfill.

“The springs got in there and tore up the brakes and the seals and the wheel-bearings,” he said.

They cost $15 to $20 to dispose of,” he said. “There’s a facility in Rochester that actually takes them apart and recycles all the material instead of it going into our landfill.”

By raising the tipping fee to around $90, the county would be able to cover all of those issues, Sudbrink said.

“In all honesty even if it went up to $90 now we’re still very competitive with Madison, Onondaga, all the counties around us that have flow control,” Sudbrink said.

County Administrator Rob Corpora said he would bring a recommendation forward in his proposed budget after he discusses it with Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton), committee Chairman Christopher Newell (R-Cortlandville) and Sudbrink.

“That’s a better plan than just pulling it out of thin air,” Newell said.