Learn More: Feb 13 2024 Town Board Meeting. Click here for details.
Ulster County is grappling with a major solid waste problem. All Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and recycling collected in the county is transferred to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCCRA) for disposal. This waste is then transported OVER 250 MILES away to a landfill in Seneca Meadows, NY in trucks that burn diesel fuel with low gas mileage further polluting our air. This system is not only wasteful and expensive but it also poses a severe threat to the environment. It's easy to see how this process is unsustainable. The landfill in Seneca Meadows is causing enormous local damage and efforts are ongoing to close it. According to town officials, we currently pay UCRRA $120/ton to service non-recycled waste.
There's some good news though! It is estimated that about 33,000 tons/year - 22% - of Ulster County waste is compostable. (See https://ucrra.org/waste-recycling/food-waste/) Diverting food waste to composting reduces MSW, creates significant benefits, can save money, and lowers environmental damage.
To accomplish that, Community Composting Programs are being developed in many areas. Also known as the Zero Waste Initiative, the Town of Hurley put out an RFP last year to employ a team to investigate the potential benefits to the town by implementing such a program in Hurley. It's realistic to acknowledge that there will be costs associated with such a transition. Implementing a successful composting program will require investment in our transfer station, and educating town residents on the how and why. There will be costs to set up the new system and implement it, which grants may cover.
To fully maximize the benefits of a Composting Program in Hurley, all residents would be asked to separate and drop off their food waste at pre-determined sites within the town, or do their own backyard composting. Once the program is in place, the benefits of composting should far outweigh the costs of hauling away organic material.
Hurley's RFP was answered by Greenway Environmental Services and a contract is being considered. At Tuesday, February 13th's Town Board meeting, Greenway will present an overview of their services and the contract provisions. Phase One of the agreement would require Greenway to:
Establish a baseline history of materials. revenue, expense in and out of the transfer station;
Design food waste collection, storage, and transfer protocols that includes Greenway's proprietary products, Odor Control Blend and Rapid Decomposition Medium;
Start the collection of organics with a pilot program at the Transfer Station; and
Write a grant application to assist with the development of an expanded collection and composting program throughout the town.
Especially since the Hurley Transfer Station estimates that over half of the waste we send to the landfill is organic material, Greenway's Zero Waste system will focus initially on Food Waste. Once organics are separated at the Transfer Station, their system allows for the reclamation and reuse of over 90% of the material. The collection of organics can include the compostable plastics often used for storing organic waste, making it very efficient. This is the same system used by the vendors at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival where 90% of the material was collected was diverted from the landfill.
Learn more about the entire contract when Greenway presents it to the Town Board at their workshop meeting on Tuesday, February 13, 2024. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the West Hurley Firehouse, 24 Wall St.
One way or another, the town needs to address the problem of solid waste and figure out how to make a successful transition to a meaningful reduction. In the process we may save money, and will certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Continuing to avoid the problem is certainly not going to fix it. The Climate Smart Task Force looks forward to continuing the conversation. and supports the initiative to develop and implement a town-wide Community Composting Program.