At a time when increasing fees charged to Ulster County transfer stations are causing town officials to contemplate difficult options — raising permit fees, consolidation with other towns or even closing altogether — the Town of Gardiner’s transfer station is not only in the black, it’s thriving. That’s due in no small part to the strategies enforced by Gardiner’s transfer station coordinator Wendy Toman. With an every-little-bit-counts attitude, she diverts as much as possible from what’s been discarded for recycling or redistribution. Some of what’s rescued generates income for the town; anything metal is separated out to sell as scrap and bottles or cans with a five-cent deposit are redeemed. And items removed for donation or swapping saves taxpayers money by simply reducing the quantity of material they have to pay the county Resource Recovery Agency to remove.
“It’s all about ‘reduce, re-use and redistribution,'” says Toman. “The more we do that, the more money we’re saving the town.”
Some of what’s been discarded as refuse at the transfer station has been cleaned up and made available at nominal cost at the ReUse Center located on site. “It’s amazing what people throw out,” says Toman. Cribs, strollers, vases, mirrors, baskets, stuffed toys, tools; the entire array of what comprises our daily lives ends up at some point in the trash, whether or not it’s actually ready to go there. Prices at the ReUse Center for these cleaned-up items are low, but payment must be by check, because Toman can’t accept cash or credit. The $3 per-bag tickets the town sells to discard up to a 35-gallon bag can also be used as payment for any items sold.
Toman even maintains a “wish list” bulletin board for community members looking for something in particular that might happen to be discarded; recent requests included a cane, a blender and a “long table.”
If items hang around for too long without a buyer, they get donated to local charitable organizations, serving the double purpose of helping community nonprofits and reducing the town’s hauling and tipping fees to remove the refuse. The groups who benefit include the Perseverance Organization in Gardiner, Family of New Paltz and Family of Woodstock, Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, Graf’s Bike Drive, the Boy Scouts, the Gardiner Library, Salvation Army, Grace Smith House and the New Paltz Pregnancy Support Center.
There is also a year-round bike swap on site. Bring one, take one, or pay $12 for an adult bike or $6 for a kids’ bicycle. A tool swap and book and magazine swap is similarly in place, and toys are always free to the taker.
And speaking of free, a Holiday ReUse Shop full of free items has been set up in the old landfill shed office, outfitted with shelves made from discarded wood and painted a cheerful red and white inside and out. The long-unused little building was transformed with the help of volunteers from the community. Katherine Betts served as “volunteer coordinator,” says Toman, and Diana Brenes Seiler, Kathy Weiss and Roberta Schwartz helped clear out and fix up the shed. Rich Koenig replaced the roof shingles, and Armand and Azalea Rusillon assisted with painting, merchandising and replacing boarded-up windows with glass panes cut from salvaged glass. More hands-on assistance came from SUNY student Liam MacDonald, who brought five other Sculpture Club members with him to help, and Toman, too, put in a number of unpaid hours getting the little shop set up. Now it’s full of a variety of holiday decor items and small household goods. Everything is free in the holiday shop, and it all has to go by the end of the season, as plans are in the works to replace the shed with a new structure for the ReUse Center and room has to be made for that.
The only request made of browsers who find something they’d like to take home is to write down on a posted list the items they’re taking so that Toman can keep track of what’s going on there. On a recent day, the list included sleds, Christmas books, a tree stand, candles, a portable file, a change purse, vases, an embroidery hoop and Christmas ornaments.
The Holiday ReUse Shop is open during regular business hours at the transfer station: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. No permit is necessary to shop or swap.
Other transfer station news
Another new initiative at the site is a concentrated effort to remove organic waste from the mainstream solid waste collection, which reduces atmospheric CO2 levels harmful to the environment. Teaming up with New Paltz’s Community Compost Company, the transfer station will provide five-gallon buckets with lids to residents who wish to participate by collecting their food scraps in the containers and emptying them at the transfer station. The program will be offered at no charge to permit holders; non-permit holders will be charged a composting fee of $3 per full bucket. The scraps will be taken to local farms for composting by Community Compost Co., who will charge the town nominal hauling fees for the service. Those fees, according to Toman, will be balanced out by reduced Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) fees charged to the town for landfilling the waste.
The list of compostable materials supplied by the Community Compost Company includes some items one may not expect to find, including food-soiled paper napkins and paper towels (without any chemicals on them), uncoated paper, tea bags (without the staple), eggshells, coffee grounds and yard clippings. More information on composting and the program can be provided by transfer station staff or the Community Compost Company.
Gardiner residents are also encouraged to bring unwanted textiles to the transfer station for recycling through St. Pauly Textile of Farmington, NY. The town receives a small monetary benefit in exchange for providing clean, dry clothing and bedding for distribution to areas in need of humanitarian relief. Acceptable items for donation are clothing (including outerwear and shoes); bedding (blankets and comforters, sheets and pillowcases, but not pillows); curtains and even small, washable stuffed animals. No permit is necessary to participate in this program; just bag donations before pushing through the slot in the shed set aside for this purpose in the lower parking area of the transfer station. And while items are sorted in upstate New York for distribution worldwide, if there’s a local family in need, the shed can be opened for donations as requested.
And for those unusable electronics that have been taking up space at home for lack of figuring out where to get rid of them safely, the electronics waste recycling program has been reinstated at the Gardiner transfer station, offered at no charge to all Ulster County residents with valid ID presented at the time of disposal.
The list of items that can be brought in includes CRT and flat screen televisions; computer desktops, laptops and monitors; small scale servers; keyboards, mice and cables; scanners, printers and fax machines weighing less than 100 pounds; portable digital audio players and cell phones; VCR/DVD/DVR players; digital converter boxes; cable/satellite receivers; and electronic/video game consoles. Best of all is that the data contained on any electronic storage media will be “shredded, erased, degaussed, impaired or otherwise overwritten in accordance with Department of Defense standards and specifications” by the Massachusetts-based Electronics Recycling International (ERI).
The Gardiner Transfer Station and Recycling Center is located at the end of Steve’s Lane off of Dusinberre Road from the S-curve in the hamlet. For more information, call recycling coordinator Wendy Toman at (845) 255-9775, visit “Gardiner Transfer Station and Recycling Center” on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gardinerreuseandrecyclingcenter or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.