Talking trash

Warren County’s Waste Plan released for public comment

Warren County generated 36,618 tons of municipal solid waste in 2014 at a rate of 4.90 pounds per person per day.

And county officials have been working through an update to a plan on how to dispose and recycle all of it.

Warren County has completed a Solid Waste Plan and released the document for public comment.

Categories for municipal solid waste at the federal level include paper and cardboard, metals, plastics, rubber and leather, textiles and wood. Examples included in the study include product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances and batteries.

County Planner Dan Glotz said that the county is required by law to update the solid waste plan every 10 years.

Glotz said the plan includes discussion of county demographics as well as history on municipal waste generation in the county and also “gets into the process for contracting with the landfills.”

The plan defines the purpose of the plan — to “ensure sufficient services are available for the collection, transportation and disposition of all the various municipal waste streams.”

The first county authority for solid waste dates to the 1971 and the landfill at Grunderville was in operation until 1990.

Now, waste collection is handled by private firms — Advanced Disposal, Fitch Disposal, Waste Management and Casella Waste — and then transported outside of the county.

Glotz said that there a total of eight landfills that the county contracts with, two of which are secondary to another landfill that is closer and serve as a backup.

“A lot of it goes to Kersey,” Glotz said, “some to McKean, over near Smethport, and some goes to the Chautauqua County landfill. We have a little bit that goes to Waste Management in Erie County.

“The bulk of it does go to the one down in Kersey that is owned by Advanced,” he added.

2015 data shows that over 31 tons of the county’s waste was shipped to the Greenetree landfill in Kersey. Over 2,000 tons went to McKean while nearly 2000 went to the Lake View Landfill in Erie County.

Glotz said the landfill contracts have been signed by the landfill operators and the county commissioners.

The study details that the county produces more waste than the state projects but indicates that counties with transfer stations — Advanced Disposal operates one outside Pittsfield — often exceed state projections.

The “single most important need” the planning process revealed “was providing outlets for hard to dispose of items,” the study states.

Glotz said part of the process is establishing a Solid Waste Advisory Committee which included representatives from each type of government present in the county — city, borough and township as well as industry representatives from the county.

“A review of illegal dumping activities and the contents of those dump sites prompted the Committee to suggest the need for a centralized drop-off point,” the study concluded. “This Convenience Center would also provide supervised collection of recyclables…. The study will determine the volume of materials expected to be managed at the Convenience Center, the necessary equipment and the size and conceptual layout of the facility. A pilot program, if successful, will establish how the program can add services systematically on an as needed basis.”

The committee detailed a series of “prevailing conditions” regarding waste and recycling issues that included the following: Illegal dumping, littering, open burning, insufficient public education and awareness, contamination at recycling drop-off sites, poor participation in recycling, low route density, difficulty disposing of bulky waste (appliances, home remodeling waste), cost of e-scrap management, poor public awareness and perceptions, inaccurate and missing data and poor monetary return on recycling commodities.

What contributing factors exist to those conditions?

The study details those as well — lax enforcement and prosecution, lack of magistrate cooperation, inconsistent laws and ordinances, voluntary waste collection service, lack of municipal collection contracts, inequity of recycling service, inconsistent collection of bulky waste, cost of providing drop-off service, proximity of recycling processors and markets, lack of a recycling coordinator, poor reporting and data management, political will and willingness to pay.

Glotz said the plan is currently out for public comment and will be posted on the county website for those interested. Once that process is complete, he said the full plan would go to the county commissioners for approval.

So what’s ahead?

The study offers several conclusions, including expanding special collection events for household hazardous waste, adopting a new ordinance “that establishes reporting requirements for transporters of municipal waste and recyclables” and “commission a study to determine the best option or combination of options to cost effectively increase recycling opportunities to the majority of Warren County residents, institutions and businesses.”

It also calls for the hiring of a “recycling coordinator to ensure enforcement and implementation of the plan, perform the administrative reporting functions to comply with Act 101 and to conduct outreach and educational programs throughout the county.”

The study speaks of the importance of municipalities delivering the message to residents regarding the need to utilize private waste collection services.