Op-Ed

 

Valley Views: County’s Solid Waste Management Plan Aims Too Low

On April 8, 2013 the Dutchess County Legislature passed the 2013 Dutchess County Local Solid Waste Management Plan. All 17 Republican legislators voted for this plan while seven Democrats plus one Conservative voted against its implementation.

The plan offers decreasing solid waste generation, increasing reuse and recycling, and minimizing 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.

Why can’t we guarantee the county will be able to accomplish at least one of all tasks outlined in the plan? If the schedule is comprehensive and ambitious, why is our recycling goal 60 percent and not more? Why do we have a plan that focuses far too heavily on the incinerator? Did you know “waste to energy” is mentioned often in the plan, which means 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. Many municipalities do much better than what is proposed for Dutchess County and reap the benefits of higher levels of recycling.

Locally, Beacon is at a 70 percent recycling rate and is seeing massive financial cost cuts. Across the river, New Paltz was selected to partner with the U.S. Department of the Environment to develop a Zero Waste Action Plan for our country. We have two models in our own backyard to use as a guide.

Why don’t we have a plan with a more specified goal for decreasing waste without burning more garbage? We need to think of sustainability for Dutchess County especially when we have nearby municipalities to model from.

Our current recycling rate is a low 23 percent and the new plan gives a projection of only 60 percent in a 10 year period. I believe this is a low percentage compared to other counties in New York and we have set a low standard for our county. One may think going from 23 to 60 percent is ambitious but remember there are no specified goals outlined and we, the county, cannot guarantee we will accomplish all or one of the tasks outlined in the plan. We should not congratulate executives and authorities for saving the burn plant or saving taxpayer money. As long as there is burning, there will be less recycling. We should not be proud of a circumstance that lowers our citizen’s quality of life.

The use of incinerators for waste management is at best controversial. Everyone must weigh the economic appeal of local industrial activity with their concerns over health and environmental risk. I suggest everyone go to the county website and read the plan. Public input will be needed as we implement this plan.

After you read the plan, think of where you stand on this issue and speak to your representatives. Make sure you hold us accountable for the decisions made pertaining to this Waste Management Plan. Your health and the health of our children depend upon it.

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