Town highway superintendent Doug Myer said this week that Saugerties was poised to cooperate with the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency when and if that agency stops processing single-stream recyclables. The county-sponsored agency formally voted to end the practice on June 14 after China, which once received two-thirds of American recycled material paper material and a third of its total plastic exports, enacted new anti-pollution bans. Municipalities will have until the first of next year to comply.
“We were pretty much set up for this change,” said Myer. “We have taken a proactive approach since we became self-sufficient [by] using our own trucks, rolloff containers and compactors [that were] purchased in the fall of 2017 and put in service in mid-December of 2017.”
The new Chinese regulations, which impose high purity standards for recyclables, entirely bar materials contaminated with food waste and certain types of plastic. The regulations have led to pileups of recyclables at facilities unable to dispose of their recyclables. According to UCRRA executive director Tim Rose, single-stream recycling services have become unsustainable.
The move doesn’t affect residents who receive curbside pickup of co-mingled recycling from private companies like County Waste or Waste Management. Recycling from those companies is processed elsewhere. The RRA handles single-stream recycling from several town transfer stations and the city of Kingston.
Thanks to a 50 percent matching grant, half the purchase price of new required equipment will be reimbursed to the town, Myer said. The last component, a 30-cubic-yard standard heavy duty rolloff container priced at $6969, was approved for purchase by the town board on June 13.
UCRRA’s dual-stream facility can process and bale recyclables as long as fibers, like paper and cardboard, are separated from glasses, metals and plastics. Comingled products are sent to a site in Beacon at a cost to the UCRRA of $56 per ton.
In a separate resolution, the agency raised fees from $20 to $40 per unsorted ton of recyclables until January 1, when single-stream processes will be halted entirely. Myer warned that fee could be hiked up to $60 prior to the transition. He is considering charging users an extra $5 for the annual transfer station fee.
“The separation of materials will have to be done at home or prior to being put in our recycling containers at the transfer station,” said Myer. “There will be designated rolloff containers for each separated product. Most everyone is already aware of these changes, and are ready to comply. We have had very little negative feedback from the customers who frequent the transfer station.”
Myer said that Saugerties wasn’t hit as hard by the switch because the community was new to the transfer station business. It kept the possible shift from single-stream in mind when purchasing equipment.
“Through discussing recycling as it has evolved through the years with people that deal with it on a daily basis,” said the Saugerties highway superintendent, “it has become clear that presorted materials will be the only ones favored by the larger recycling firms that utilize these materials to recreate products from them.”