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Case Studies: Climate Smart Recycling and Composting

New York Communities Save Materials and Energy

Note: All of the following links leave the DEC website

The links below access recycling and composting success stories in New York. Although most programs do not yet assess their greenhouse gas savings, some are evaluating tax dollar savings from recycling and avoided landfilling of wastes.

Communities designated with a star (*) are Climate Smart Communities. These case studies are part of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action. Communities are encouraged to report additional projects for recognition here (use the email and phone contacts shown at the lower right).

Recycling of Special Wastes

*City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Sludge Management

The City of Kingston's waste water treatment plant has received awards for its cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to dumping sludge into landfills. The system, in operation since 2007, converts dried sewage sludge into fertilizer pellets. Waste methane gas operates the drying process and any excess gas is directed to a generator to produce energy. The pellets are sold (or in some cases given) to residents, who use the recycled nutrients to improve soil conditions.
At the inception of the project, the city was paying $218,000 a year to dispose of its sludge. Several thousand tons of sludge have since been prevented from entering the landfill, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced and related transportation costs have been minimized.

Westchester County Plastic Bag Recycling

Westchester County directs residents to bring their plastic bags to local retailers. Local law requires retailers with stores 10,000 square feet or greater who distribute plastic bags to their customers, to establish an in-store collection and recycling program with receptacles near or at the entrance to the store.

Westchester County also has a Household Material Recovery Facility (HMRF) which accepts household hazardous waste and other items worthy of special handling from Westchester County residents on a year-round, appointment-only basis.

Recycling in Public Spaces

New York City Event Recycling Law

New York City has amended its administrative code (click on NYC Administrative Code and enter "event recycling" in the search box), making it mandatory to recycle at all New York City street events including block parties and street fairs. A city event recycling coordinator is available to help event organizers create a waste reduction and recycling plan for their event. Training is also offered for recycling volunteers. Fines may be issued for non-compliance with recycling regulations.

  • The City's website describes requirements for recycling at street events.

Composting and Other Organics Recovery

Westchester County Biodiesel Program

Westchester County recycles vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel for county facilities and vehicles. Collecting and processing used vegetable oil saves money formerly spent to purchase petroleum diesel.

The county offers free pick-up of used vegetable oil from food establishments and county facilities (county jail; county parks and golf course concession stands; Westchester Medical Center). The collected vegetable oil is processed into a clean burning alternative fuel that can be used alone or blended with conventional diesel and used as motor fuel and heating oil.

The recycled waste oil powers county vehicles, boilers and the Veggie Van, a mobile conservation and recycling classroom. The county is retrofitting vehicles with new fuel systems that burn vegetable oil, and is expanding its use of B5 biodiesel heating oil. Current uses include some building boilers and an assortment of vehicles (trucks, vans, a snow plow, pick-up truck, a farm tractor, and a full-size garbage truck).

*WOW Watervliet Organic Waste

The City of Watervliet has cut its landfill costs and reduced its carbon footprint by removing organic waste from its waste stream. Residents of the City have been provided with receptacles to deposit their food waste which is then collected bi-weekly and delivered to a City built facility where it is composted.

The City is currently working with the municipality of Minoa (in central New York) to build an anaerobic digester. Once built, the digester would supplant the composting of the organic waste.

Education and Outreach for Materials and Waste Management

*Village of Irvington Recycle Your Leaves Program

The Village of Irvington uses a logo to gain visibility for its "Leave Your Leaves" program, which educates residents on the benefits of mulching and leaving the leaves in place

Drawing of a leaf with three arrows encircling it. All in shades of green.
"Leave Your Leaves"
Logo (Courtesy of the
Village of Irvington)

right on their grass and gardens. The Village hopes to reduce some of its annual $100,000 leaf removal cost by encouraging residents to fertilize their lawns and landscaped garden beds with their own mulched and composted leaves.

2014 Update: Through effective outreach this program has now been adopted by several other Westchester County communities and the vision is to expand the "Love 'Em & Leave 'Em" initiative county-wide.

*Town of Brookhaven "Curby" Recycling Mascot

Recyclables collection stays front and center in the Town of Brookhaven. Brookhaven's Waste Management department reaches out to the community with a quarterly

A drawing of Curby the recycling can, the mascot of the Town of Brookhaven
Curby, the Town of Brookhaven's
recycling mascot. (Courtesy of the
Town of Brookhaven)

newsletter and a recycling mascot, "Curby" who even has his own Facebook page with answers to recycling questions. At the town-owned Materials Recycling Facility, mechanical and human sorting of recyclables create marketable materials that earn the town more than $1 million per year when prices on recyclables market are high.

Westchester County Recycling Education

Westchester County's Veggie Van is a mobile classroom that visits schools and public events to educate students and residents about conservation and recycling.

The county's Material Recovery Facility boasts an Education and Conference Center that allows visitors to observe the operation of a garbage and recyclables transfer station. Tours to the Education Center of the Westchester County Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Yonkers are available free of charge and are suitable for students of all ages. The MRF Education and Conference Center attracted more than 15,500 visitors in 2009, including thousands of students from schools throughout Westchester. Professionals and special interest groups also used the Conference Center throughout the year for meetings.