ANCRAM—This town is on the forefront in many ways when it comes to environmental issues, being climate savvy and energy efficient.
So imagine what a revelation it was at the January Town Board meeting when right after a comprehensive annual report from the chair of the Town’s Conservation Advisory Council about all the strides made on the environmental front, Councilman David Boice announced that there is no recycling going on at Town Hall.
“This building does not recycle,” said the councilman, noting the Town Hall has one dumpster and “everything under the sun goes in it.”
The one exception mentioned was the paper collected through the County Clerk’s KISS (Keeping Identities of Seniors Safe) program, which is hauled away for shredding by a vendor and disposed of elsewhere.
Since that January 16 meeting, according to Town Supervisor Art Bassin, Town Clerk Monica Cleveland has set up a recycling process for paper and plastic at Town Hall. Blue containers for items to be recycled are now placed around the Town Hall and the contents are disposed of in a separate dumpster, strictly for recyclables. Mrs. Cleveland said she has also started purchasing recycled toilet paper and paper towels and environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies for Town Hall.
With recycling behavior hopefully becoming second nature, it seemed like a good time to check in with Columbia County Solid Waste Department Director Jolene Race to find out how recycling is going at the county level.
For the first time, at the start of 2019 the county set a fee for people to use county solid waste stations for recycling. Now when people bring their paper, glass, metal and plastic to any county solid waste station to be recycled, they need a permit (a window sticker), which has to be renewed and a fee paid annually.
Window sticker permits are available at town halls and at the waste stations. The cost for the permit is $50 a year or $35 for residents 65 and older; they cost $100 for out-of-county residents.
In a phone interview last month, Ms. Race told The Columbia Paper, the county’s recycling program is “going well.”
Under the new system instituted along with the fees, only plastics numbered 1, 2 and 5 are accepted as opposed to 1 through 7 which were previously allowed.
The elimination of plastics numbered 3, 4, 6 and 7 “has cleaned up the recycling stream immensely,” she said.
Though the county is not making any money on the new recycling permit fees, “we are offsetting our costs and breaking even.”
She characterized the market for recyclables as “bizarre over the past year,” when there is an improvement in one area another area goes down.
The price for cardboard has gone up, she said, noting when a market is good and reaches a certain revenue threshold, profits could be shared, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Columbia County’s vendor is Casella Recycling and recyclables go to Casella’s facility in Rutland, VT, or County Waste Recycling in Albany. Garbage goes to Ontario County at a location on the outskirts of Syracuse.
Recycling is mandated in Columbia County.
For recycling to work, Ms. Race said it must come with an education component. Public relations and teaching people how to recycle were her initial job description when she started in the solid waste department 30 years ago.
Contributing to recycling confusion are that many items are incorrectly marked as recyclable. Specifically, single-use plastic bags, which will be banned in New York State effective March 1.
Though many are marked with a recycling symbol, Ms. Race notes, “they cannot go through our system, they jam up the belts.”
“Everything that says it’s recyclable is really not.”
Looking back on her career, Ms. Race said, the same things that were problems 30 years ago are still problems—like styrofoam. “We can ban it, but it’s still being manufactured.”
Change has to start with manufacturers, they have to stop using these petroleum-based substances. “Styrofoam is toxic,” she said, asking, “How far have we really progressed?”
Back at the Ancram meeting, the board discussed other cost and energy-saving initiatives proposed by the Climate Smart Committee Task Force (CSCTF):
• Putting in a geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Town Hall. The board approved a resolution authorizing Supervisor Bassin to work with the town engineer to develop a bid package and solicit bids for a geothermal system to replace the existing Town Hall HVAC system. About $70,000 of the town’s NYSERDA (the state energy research and development authority) grant can be used to install a geothermal system, bringing the cost down to about $45,000, which is the cost of a conventional HVAC system. The geothermal system is expected to save the town about $5,000 a year in propane and electric costs
• The board approved a proposal from Central Hudson to replace 27 street lights with LEDs at a cost of about $3,800. Prior to a final decision on implementing this proposal the town will contact all residents of the lighting district by mail with an explanation of the benefits of this conversion and conduct a public hearing. In addition to the savings of energy, the proposed LED street light conversion will save about $2,200 a year of the $7,000 per year the town now pays for street lights
• The board tabled a decision on replacing all interior lights at Town Hall and the Town Garage with LEDs pending further CSCTF analysis of a proposal from Lime Energy and the solicitation and review of other proposals
The next Town Board meeting is February 20 starting with a public hearing on a proposed local law amending Article V of 2014 Zoning Law at 6.30 p.m.