Here and Now: Dutchess County Waste Management Plan

In April, the Dutchess County Legislature passed the 2013 Dutchess County Local Solid Waste Management Plan (“DC LSWMP” or “Plan”). All 17 Republican Legislators voted for this plan while 7 Democrats plus 1 Conservative voted against its implementation.

The DC LSWMP offers decreasing solid waste generation that increases reuse and recycling and minimizes the use of landfills for solid waste disposal. Yet, the beginning of the Plan clearly states, “This Plan does not guarantee the County will be able to accomplish all of the tasks outlined and specified within the Implementation Schedule in Appendix D. The schedule is comprehensive and ambitious, and will take a major commitment by the County to realize all of the tasks.” The Plan is obviously too far reaching and broad to be realistic in its goals. Instead of choosing just a few obtainable goals, this piece of legislation predicts its own impossible implementation before it even gets off the ground.

The Legislature should be able to guarantee taxpayers something tangible in this plan. The plan should also focus less on the incinerator. “Waste to energy” is mentioned often in the plan which implies the county has an interest in burning more garbage including garbage from outside counties. Did you know the air quality for Dutchess County was rated F for a few years up until last year when we were given a grade of D? These are ALL fixable problems.

Our current recycling rate is a low 23% and the new plan gives a projection of only 60% in a 10 year period. One may think going from 23% to 60% is ambitious but remember, the County cannot guarantee we will accomplish all or one of the tasks outlined in the Plan. Beacon, a local city in Dutchess County, has a 70% recycling rate and is seeing massive financial cost cuts. New Paltz, a village in Ulster County, was selected to partner with the U.S. Department of the Environment to develop a Zero Waste Action Plan for our country. Many municipalities do much better than what is proposed for Dutchess County and reap the benefits of higher levels of recycling.

The use of incinerators for waste management is at best controversial and everyone must weigh the economic appeal of local industrial activity with their concerns over health and environmental risk. Recycling is good for the environment because it takes less energy to create new products from recycled materials than it does from raw materials. It can also help us create green jobs. Anyone interested in the environment or this Plan should go to the county’s website and read the plan. Public input is needed as we implement this Plan. We need your help to reach our goals.

If you have questions about whether an item can be recycled, call your hauler, ask your transfer station operator, or email with your question.