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  • Peter McKnight

Inside Look at UCRRA: Yes, Recycling Happens Here

People often wonder if recycling is really happening. After taking a tour of the Ulster

County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) last month, it is clear that it is!

The first stop on the tour was the composting area, with steaming piles full of mostly broken down compost. This compost, once finished, can be used in gardens, on lawns, and other locations where a soil amendment is desired.

Composting helps reduce the formation of methane, an important greenhouse gas, and reduces the amount of trash that has to be shipped to a permanent location. Because so much of our landfill is replete with organic material that can be composted, instead of leaching methane, which is such a toxic GHG, this is very significant. Looking ahead, expect to see more information about composting.

Inside the large building there are separate areas for paper recycling, plastics, metals, glass etc. It is well known that aluminum and steel are valuable materials in the recycling stream, but if properly cleaned and sorted, even plastics can be recycled into valuable materials. Clean paper and cardboard are great materials for recycling. Materials that cannot be recylced are being trucked to a landfill near Syracuse, New York. This landfill was scheduled to close in 2025*, and Ulster County is searching for a local alternative, in addition to encouraging zero-waste habits. Not only does our garbage contribute to a massive landfill, a lot of gasoline powered trucks make a long trip back and forth to do so.

"Wishful Recylcing" is something many of us are guilty of. We want to believe that the item we are putting in the recycling bin is recyclable. But, if it isn’t (such as a greasy pizza carton or a light bulb), it becomes a contaminant and makes other items in the recycling stream non-recyclable. If in doubt, put it in the regular trash. The more we can sort the trash, the more we can recycle.

The Town of Hurley Transfer Station is doing a great job of sorting items for recycling, which is picked up by UCRRA. Proper sorting allows for maximum recyling.

Recycling collected by private collectors, however, is sorted at their own sites and may not be as well recycled. - Peter McKnight, Nov 1, 2022

* Read about some of the issues at the upstate Seneca Falls Landfill in this opinion piece.

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