By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO March 3, 2006 Forget turning trash to treasures.
The Sullivan County Recycling program is about more than that.
Its about saving the precious little space left in the countys landfill.
Its about saving the earth.
Its about making some revenue to offset the cost of doing business.
Taxes never go down, Bill Cutler II said matter-of-factly. But they dont have to go up so much.
The Sullivan County recycling coordinator looks at his program as a no-brainer.
In 2005, 7,030 tons of recyclable materials went through the countys program.
Much of the paper, mixed containers, scrap metal, tires and used oil/antifreeze that would once have been headed straight into the landfill was instead sold to companies in the private sector who will turn the refuse into something new.
The grand total in revenue?
In 2005, the county earned $449,178.94 by selling residents recycled materials.
The number is dependent, of course, on the market scrap metal has been bringing significantly higher prices in recent years.
But Cutler said those numbers could be even higher if more of Sullivans residents were following the law sorting your garbage and recycling is mandatory in Sullivan County.
It has been since Sept. 1, 1992, Cutler said.
Thats four years after the county started collecting newsprint at the landfill site in Monticello.
In that first year, 1988, they collected 80 tons of newsprint. Last year, newspapers made up 2,520 tons of the recycled materials processed by the countys program.
Growing and Growing
Since the county passed a law mandating not only newspapers but Number 1 and Number 2 plastic, glass and a list of other items be separated out for recycling, the numbers have been rising steadily.
Were growing in leaps and bounds, Cutler noted.
And with new demand in the recycling market for a number of materials, the countys expanded the program to include seven types of plastic (resin varieties 3 through 7 in addition to the 1 and 2 already accepted) as well as chipboard (a type of paper fiber commonly used to make cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, gray notepad backer board and TV dinner cartons).
And theyre all mandatory businesses and private homes alike must comply with the law.
All generators, Cutler explained. That means everyone who throws out garbage.
Cutler said the county tries to sell as much of its recyclable matter to county businesses as possible Fox Run Recycling in Callicoon and Weinert in Ferndale are two of their biggest contractors.
When companies like these call his office offering to buy other materials, he adds them to the list of items residents should be sorting out of their trash.
Recycling doesnt happen unless theres a private sector that demands, needs, uses our items, he explained.
Recycling literally means reconditioning an item for another use.
Without someone to reuse a particular item, it cant be recycled.
Thats why the county only accepted Number 1 and 2 plastics for more than a decade.
Those markets for 1 and 2 have existed in the recycling industry almost from day one, Cutler explained.
The Number 1 soda bottles were melted down and made into carpeting, Polartec fleece, even new bottles.
The Number 2 variety, used to make milk jugs and Clorox bottles, can be made into toys, rope, even plastic lumber.
But the recycling of the other varieties is relatively new.
Ive been getting calls from China to buy our plastic direct from overseas, Cutler explained. Now, were not equipped to handle international trade like that.
But, he said, thats often how the process gets going.
Hell get wind of a new market for certain items, and hell make some calls to recycling companies in the area.
Currently hes looking at a market opening up for electronic scrap old computers and televisions that are currently going into the countys landfill.
If he finds a buyer within close range of Sullivan County, hell see if the product in demand can be added to the recycling list. His goal is to keep Sullivan on the forefront of the recycling world.
We have a program that accepts materials sometimes equal or greater to what our neighboring counties do, Cutler explained.
It benefits all of us, he continued.
The in-county businesses who buy recycled materials are taxed on that revenue and that money goes back into the county coffers.
And, of course, the revenue for the materials sold goes back into the countys general fund.
Even glass bottles, which arent currently sold to a dealer, are broken down and used by the county for projects at the landfill in place of buying costly crusher run.
To cut down on the cost of running the program, Cutler said the county requires companies buying the materials from the county be responsible for hauling it away.
They also have inmate crews from Sullivan Correctional doing some of the work required at the recycling center each day along with folks from SullivanARC and county employees.
The program does require work.
The items brought in by private haulers have to be sorted to ensure they are indeed recyclable materials, and Cutler said items that dont meet the requirements are weeded out and tossed in the landfill.
People have seen that and said, Why am I recycling, its just being thrown away, he said. They may have seen us throwing things away, but they had to get up close and see if that was indeed a Number 2 plastic container.
The reason we get a fairly high market value for our materials is because its sorted well.
Theres also a system in place that monitors the haulers to ensure theyre following the mandatory sorting rules.
If a load of trash comes to the landfill chock full of recyclable items that werent sorted out, Cutler said the hauler is fined $50 per cubic foot of garbage.
Items that have been reused once and are no longer recyclable dont count, he said.
Newspaper used in a cats litter box, for example, has in essence been recycled because youve gotten a second use out of it.
Although hes head of recycling for the county, Cutler said his goal isnt just to see items be processed at his center in Monticello.
Residents and businesses are both encouraged to use items in alternative ways to get more use out of them before discarding.
He recommends creating compost piles in the backyard for banana peels and old coffee grinds, things the recycling center has no use for but dont have to go into the landfill.
He also recommends using the waste reuse program through the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange.
If you have something that still works and might be useful to someone else, you can call up the program, based at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, and offer it up.
If, for example, a contractor orders custom windows for his client, and they change their mind when its too late to make a return, those windows can sit in a back room for years.
Instead of tossing them, send them over to the exchange. Theyll find a new home for them.
The earth is a finite space, and we all have to occupy it, Cutler said. Recycling is one of the only sustainable methods of waste management we have.
How can we close the landfill? he asked. Stop making garbage.
With no solution in sight, Cutler said recycling is the next best option.
Currently, recyclable matter which includes mixed paper, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, glass, steel cans, aluminum beverage cans, plastic containers Number 1 through Number 7, tires, used motor oil and scrap metal can all be taken to the landfill in Monticello or any of the countys transfer stations.
Antifreeze is accepted at the landfill site only, and there is a fee for disposal of tires and CFC-containing appliances.
But most of the items will be sold or reused by the county and none of it will end up in the landfill.
For more information, private haulers licensed by Sullivan County can be contacted, or call Bill Cutler II at the countys division of solid waste, 794-4466.