State Officials are Listening – An Update to My Solid Waste Planning Blog

Author: Luann Meyer

Since my last blog in April, New York State has obviously been listening to the challenges set forth by local governments to implement their solid waste management plans and now they appear to be doing something about it.  

Central New York was home to “Capital for a Day” on September 30, 2015 where Governor Cuomo brought his Cabinet to Syracuse to identify ways to bolster economic opportunities and support communities in Central New York.  As part of that initiative, NYSDEC officials, local leaders, and stakeholders had an opportunity to meet at Madison County’s solid waste management facility to discuss the challenges local governments are facing as they try to implement waste reduction programs on a tight budget.  

Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman said, "Implementing a comprehensive solid waste management program is a significant undertaking for local governments. Thoughtful planning and strategic investment of limited available capital funding is critical to managing large volumes of waste in the most sustainable way. DEC has assisted counties, planning units and others in designing and implementing these programs, both financially and through technical assistance. We will continue to provide support to our colleagues in local government to identify areas where they can work together to achieve maximum efficiencies." Kudos to Acting Commissioner Gerstman for listening to the needs of local planning units. 

As my blog had previously indicated, local communities are under pressure to increase recycling rates and capture food scraps, but the path to do this is not always an easy one. Communities can learn from other communities and work together to coordinate activities that increase efficiencies. I suggested local governments confer with other planning units, municipalities, businesses, schools, churches, volunteer groups, or private corporations. Networking and cooperative approaches can be cost effective ways to ultimately achieve more waste reduction and diversion.

On October 1, 2015, the NYSDEC announced that as part of Governor Cuomo’s “Capital for a Day” in Central New York that they are creating several initiatives designed to address challenges local governments face in their solid waste management efforts.  Four key announcements were made that are listed in the press release  most notably was the DEC announcement that would “initiate solid waste management regulatory changes to promote and fund projects which help implement inter-municipal cooperation and efficiencies in solid waste management.” It is unclear at this time what this means, but most importantly, they understand that local governments can obtain valuable insights from each other by sharing experiences from existing programs and by coordinating operations to achieve efficiencies. It is clear that the State wants to support these efforts, but we will need to wait and see how and to what extent they propose to do this.