Reducing the amount of municipal solid waste destined for landfills is a top priority in New York State.
Municipal Solid Waste is composed primarily of residential waste, or the waste that you and I discard daily. It does not include industrial, hazardous or construction waste. The main sources of our municipal solid waste are from papers, yard trimmings, food scraps, plastics, and to a lesser extent rubber, leather and textiles, metals, glass, wood, and other sources.
Why Reduce Waste:
In 1988, the New York State Legislature adopted the Solid Waste Management Act and in it established our State Solid Waste Management Policy. The following are the solid waste management priorities in New York State:
- First, to reduce the amount of solid waste generated;
- Second, to reuse material for the purpose for which it was originally intended or to recycle material that cannot be reused;
- Third, to recover, in an environmentally acceptable manner, energy from solid waste that cannot be economically and technically reused or recycled; and
- Fourth, to dispose of solid waste that is not being reused, recycled or from which energy is not being recovered, by land burial or other methods approved by the department (from New York State Environmental Conservation Law 27-0106.1).
In addition, New York State issued a Recycling Mandate whereby all municipalities must adopt a local law or ordinance, by no later than September 1, 1992, requiring that solid waste be separated into recyclable, reusable or other components. Information on our partners recycling programs in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties and the City of Watertown is available on their websites.
Since inception New York State's paper recycling program has:
- Saved 6.7 million cubic yards of landfill space;
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 million metric tons of carbon equivalents;
- Saved 231 trillion BTUs of energy, which is enough to power 2.2 million New York homes; and
- Reduced the need for virgin materials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2008:
- Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash. Of this amount, about 135 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) was discarded in landfills. This equates to approximately 4.5 pounds of waste generated per person per day!
- Recycling has increased from 10% of municipal solid waste generated in 1980 to over 33% in 2008.
- In 2008, Americans recovered about 61 million tons of waste through recycling and an additional 22.1 million tons of waste through composting.
- By recycling more than 7 million of metals in 2008, Americans eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing more than 4.5 million cars from the road for one year.
- Disposal of waste to landfills has decreased from 89% of municipal waste generated in 1980 to 54% in 2008.