Recycling Solid Wastes
Recycling, whether viewed as a nuisance or a hope for the future, will become a fact of life in New York State. Because landfills are overflowing, the Legislature passed the Solid Waste Management Act of 1988. One of the many provisions of this law is an amendment to Section 120-aa of the General Municipal Law concerning "Source Separation and Segregation of Recyclable or Reusable Materials".
The State has passed on to the local municipalities the responsibility to adopt local laws to mandate recycling. No later than September 1, 1992, the local municipality shall adopt such a local law or ordinance "to require that solid waste which has been left for collection or which is delivered by the generator of such waste to a solid waste management facility, shall be separated into recyclable, reusable or other components for which economic markets for alternate uses exist." The term "economic market" is defined as instances in which the full avoided costs of proper collection, transportation and disposal of source separated materials are equal to, or greater than the cost of collection, transportation and sale of said material less the amount received from the sale of said material.
The Law does not list specific elements that must be included in a local ordinance. This may make it easier for the municipalities to address local needs, but it makes it difficult for the Education Department to offer assistance and guidance to school districts. Since questions must be answered locally, a first step must be to determine which level of local government will actually be running the program. Then, ask that unit of local government the following questions:
- Will schools be included in the local ordinance?
- What will be the effect of any ordinance on: the landfill operator, the hauler, the generator?
- Who determines what is included in the full avoided cost of recycling?
- How will the list of recyclable materials be determined?
- Who will determine the extent of the list of recyclable materials?
- How often will the list of recyclable materials be revised?
- How must the recyclable materials be prepared and "packaged"?
- What will be the penalties for noncompliance?
- What alternatives are available to the generator if a load is rejected by the hauler?
- What will be done to avoid labor problems over the picking through and/or separating of trash and recyclables, including associated health hazards?
While the State Law itself may not provide a clear mandate to recycle, school districts will very likely face definite social and/or economic pressures to initiate recycling programs. A suggested approach follows:
- Appoint a person or committee to be the district's (or the school building's) expert.
- Request assistance from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling, 50 Wolf Road, Albany, New York 12233-4015 (518) 457-7337. They can provide a host of information, from educational materials, to market information.
- Meet with your waste hauler. Discuss what restrictions they have or expect to impose on the generator; what separated materials they will pick up; and how they want materials prepared and packaged.
- Talk to other school districts that have recycling programs in place. Find out what problems they encountered and how they solved them.
- Investigate alternative markets that may generate revenues from waste materials.
- Initiate education programs and class projects.
- Provide safe storage areas for recyclable materials. The New York State Uniform
Fire Prevention and Building Code, Section 1191.3a2 states: "Combustible
waste and refuse shall be stored in:
- containers constructed of noncombustible materials, equipped with tight-fitting covers;
- bins constructed of noncombustible materials, equipped with self-closing covers, or covers that close automatically in case of fire inside of the bin;
- rooms designed for such storage (2 hour fire rated);
- isolated areas outside of buildings, suitable for such storage.