Saugerties adopts new composting system

A new composting system at the Saugerties transfer station will pay for itself, according to Mary McNamara, appointed by the town board to oversee the station’s new organic recycling program.

Saugertiesians brought 956 tons of biodegradable waste to the station last year. It cost $103 per ton to bring it to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency. According to McNamara, an agreement with the Kerhonkson-based Community Composting Company will cost the town $309.60 per month.

The organic material CCC amasses at Arrowhead Farm is sold as soil through the Hudson Soil Company. On its website CCC estimates that 20 percent of waste in landfills could be composted. 

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Company head Eileen Banyra calls composting a “gateway supplement” to other environmentally friendly practices. “It’s something that everyone kind of knows about but nobody really does,” she said. “Right now it’s going into our garbage — it’s being considered a waste but it’s really a resource. Food scraps or any organic materials, anything that was once alive, can and should be composted. They’re going to the landfill, which means that they’ll be emitting greenhouse gases in the absence of oxygen.”

Compost, Banyra says, can be used fo reintroducing lost soil bacteria, for creating soil that water can percolate through more easily, and for capping landfills. Composted soil is also less susceptible to erosion, she said.

“The idea is that you have close to $100,000 that you spend taking household garbage to the RRA,” said McNamara. “If we reduce it by even just a few percentage points, we’re saving money, so if the town is able to reduce the amount of household garbage it’s taking to the resource recovery agency. It could pay for the cost of the program. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward approach, low-tech approach to reducing the amount of household waste that the transfer station has to deal with.”

Residents would pay $15 per year for a permit to use the composting bins if they don’t already have a transfer station permit. McNamara suggested that eco-conscious households could use a five-gallon bucket to amass their food waste. Other participating towns include Gardiner, Marbletown and Woodstock.

“The reason I was interested in composting is because food uses more water,” said McNamara, who has been a member of local water-quality monitoring agency Riverkeeper for nearly 20 years. “Agriculture uses more fresh water than any other industry. To save on food waste is also saving on water.”

Containers that will keep out bears and other wild animals must be designed first.

The town has made several moves toward becoming more environmentally conscious within the past year. In May, Saugerties became a Clean Energy Community, allowing local officials to apply for a $5000 grant. The Kiwanis Ice Arena was outfitted last year with electric-car charging stations and a water-bottle filling station. A local foodshare, the Long Spoon Collective, has been gaining traction; The Saugerties Climate Smart Committee, spearheaded by councilman Mike MacIsaac, has pursued grant opportunities.

“It’s really exciting to see how much Saugerties is doing,” said McNamara. “It’s really under the radar.”

MacIsaac lauded the latest initiative. “It will give a number of points [to the Climate Smart Committee],” said MacIsaac. “It’s at least six, and we could get more. More importantly, it will reduce the amount of solid waste we’re bringing to a landfill and recycle waste that’s going to the dump. It will be greener and save money on tipping fees. We don’t want to become a climate smart community just to save money.”

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