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Waste Reduction

Waste reduction in NYS is first in the hierarchy of waste management under the State Solid Waste Management Policy established in New York State's Environmental Conservation Law. It focuses on the prevention of solid waste generation through changes in behavior and changes in products, packaging and purchasing. For individuals, waste reduction is a shift to consciously thinking about not creating waste in the first place. For product manufacturers, it is the design, manufacture, purchase or use of materials to reduce the volume or toxicity before products are produced and eventually enter the waste stream. (This is also known as source reduction.)

DEC waste reduction efforts have focused on the following general areas:

  • promotion and recognition of voluntary initiatives;
  • developing and conducting an educational outreach program; and
  • working nationally, regionally and locally for toxicity and volume reduction of products and packaging.

Public Education and Technical Assistance

Ongoing DEC program efforts, which have reduced solid waste generation and have contributed to waste reduction goals, include:

  • providing technical assistance on waste and toxicity reduction opportunities;
  • requiring all local planning units to include waste reduction initiatives in their local programs and detailing them in their comprehensive recycling analyses and local solid waste management plans;
  • encouraging municipalities to adopt quantity-based user fee disposal programs such as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) or pay per bag or pay per pound programs which encourage individuals to dispose of less waste through a financial incentive;
  • preparing and distributing educational publications on waste reduction opportunities and initiatives;
  • educating solid waste management and recycling officials, local government officials, businesses, manufacturers, and the public through workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, meetings and presentations as to the steps they can take to prevent waste; and
  • developing and posting of waste reduction program efforts on the internet.

Waste Reduction Educational Materials

Some of the DEC waste reduction educational materials available are:

  • Variable Rate Pricing - A Practical Guide for Local Decision Makers: A workbook designed to assist local officials, administrators, solid waste managers and coordinators, recyclers and others concerned about the management of municipal solid waste in evaluating, planning and implementing variable rate pricing.
  • Let's Precycle: A pamphlet for the general public on waste reduction.
  • Waste Reduction at the Supermarket: A tipstrip for consumers on shopping with waste prevention in mind, developed through our grocery store waste prevention program.
  • Waste Reduction at New York State Supermarkets -- A Resource Guide for Store Managers and Others: An idea, reference and contact guide book for supermarket employees to reduce waste at their business.

Organic Waste Composting as a Waste Reduction Measure

Composting of organic waste (anything that was once living) can be an effective waste reduction measure to prevent organic materials from entering the waste stream. Yard waste, and many food wastes, provide the greatest waste reduction opportunities for residents through backyard composting, as well as leaving grass clippings on the lawn (Leave It On The Lawn), or using leaves and grass clippings for mulch. According to the USEPA report, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008, yard trimmings and food scraps represent over 25% of the municipal solid waste stream.

In addition to reducing waste, grass clippings left on the lawn return nutrients to the soil. According to the Cornell University Waste Management Institute, every garbage bag of grass clippings contains up to one-quarter of a pound of organic nitrogen enrichment for a lawn.

Make sure to visit our other Recycling and Composting webpages for reuse, recycling and composting ideas.


More about Waste Reduction:

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  • Contact for this Page
  • NYSDEC
    Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-7253
    518-402-8706
    Send us an email
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