The Cortland County Legislature met for its first full session of the year last night (January 23), which led off with a presentation by highway officials on the county recycling program.
Changes were made at the turn of the new year, when the county took over its own recycling facility on Pendleton Street from Casella Waste Management, which had run previously for the past seven years.
Presenting to legislators were Highway Superintendent Charles Sudbrink and Senior Engineer Trisha Jesset, who got into some of the background details on how it all got to this point.
The county historically managed and operated its own facility at a full-sort capacity until 2013, when legislators decided to let Casella Waste Management take over operations due to rising costs associated with recycling.
Last night’s presentation centered around a change in Chinese policy now referred to as the “China National Sword” policy, which placed tighter restrictions on foreign recycling materials that essentially banned from being accepted within the country’s borders.
Prior to the policy taking effect in January of 2018, China had been one of the biggest purchasers of American recycling the previous 20 years.
Nowadays, as some would put it, “they ain’t buying nothin'” – which in turn has created a critical loss of revenue and subsequent spike in costs at recycling facilities across the U.S.
To give a picture on how much the policy has affected local municipalities like Cortland County, consider the two graphics below:
Figure A shows the average monthly cost of operating the recycling facility jumping 271% from August 2017 to September 2019, with Graphic B displaying this stark increase on a line graph.
To combat this trend and attempt to cut these rising costs, Sudbrink and Jesset said their primary goal is educating the public on how they can help reduce contamination in their own recycling loads.
A new requirement took effect at the new year that now mandates all glass to be separated.
Additionally, only certain plastics are accepted, with much more information on the recent changes HERE.