Their journey took them across the United States to attend conferences, see government in action and finally, to look at the landfill in Saugerties.
Transfer Station manager Marie Post said she is proud that out of 18 transfer stations in Ulster County, the one in Saugerties, which also serves Woodstock, was chosen as the model. “People tell me this is the cleanest landfill in the county,” she said.
Terry Laibach of the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that many of the other transfer stations would not have been suitable for demonstrating trash collection methods in this area.
Post is using a walker in the aftermath of heart surgery, so she sent Transfer Station assistant manager Joe Hartrum to conduct the tour.
The landfill closed in the late 1980s, Hartrum said, and the 12-to-15 acre site became a transfer station.
From the questions they asked, it was clear that these visitors were well informed, with knowledge of such techniques as recovery of methane gas from former landfills and recycling methods. The “Slum-Dog Millionaire” image is disappearing as India develops modern trash handling techniques. Guides requested that specific questions and answers not be reported in the interests of maintaining open conversation.
In general, Hartrum pointed out the ways would-be trash is reused, from sorting out furniture and other reusable items for garage sales to raise money for the town animal shelter, to composting and wood chipping brush and tree limbs for sale. Electronics are sent to recyclers who disassemble them and sort all the parts for reuse, and tires go to a facility in Catskill where they are shredded and used for such purposes as filler for road surfaces.
The group visited Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New Orleans before reaching New York. They have attended a number of conferences along the way, and met many people, said N.S. Prasad of Hyderabad, the regional coordinator of Indian Youth Climate Network. The trip to Ulster County, the last stop in the journey, was coordinated from Albany.
The tour was arranged through the International Visitor Leadership program, run by the U.S. Department of State in Washington. According to a printed description, the program is designed “to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through short-term visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders.”
Visitors through the program typically visit four communities over three weeks to view many different aspects of local government and industry in this country.
There was little time allowed for conversation. However, Kandasamy Vinoth Kumar, the director of technology at NSP Green Energy, had a few minutes to talk about modern India’s approach. He is from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state.
“Now we are going in a different direction (from mounds of garbage with scavengers). Garbage is now being taken away from the centers of cities and is being segregated into useful products, including compost and sand to be made into blocks for construction,” he said. “Metal is reprocessed.”
As Vinoth Kumar began to discuss the differences between America’s advanced technology and the level back in India, the last call for the van went out, and he had to go.
Later in the day, the group visited the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency’s transfer station on Route 32, where the larger haulers bring their trash.