New York DEC finalizes plan to minimize waste

New York has finalized a new solid waste management plan, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acting commissioner Peter Iwanowicz announced. The plan – “Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy for New York” – sets forth a new approach for the state, shifting from focusing on “end of pipe” waste management to reducing waste from the start. Municipalities, businesses and the public now have a framework that can help minimize waste, increase the use of materials that can be reused or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs.

The full plan can be viewed here.

The solid waste management plan guides DEC, municipalities, businesses and individuals in ways to significantly reduce the amount of materials destined for landfills and municipal waste combustion. New Yorkers produce more than 14 million tons of waste each year that is destined for landfills and waste combustors. This is a clear cost to communities and to the environment. In contrast, waste prevention saves money, conserves energy, avoids pollution, and protects our natural resources.

The plan seeks a progressive reduction in the amount of waste destined for disposal from the current estimate of 4.1 pounds per-person, per-day to the ultimate goal of 0.6 pounds per person per day by 2030. That goal can be achieved through aggressive actions to reduce waste and increase reuse, recycling and composting.

“It has been more than 20 years since New York took a hard look at the amount of waste generated in the state and how to manage it. The old plan was out-of-date and no longer sufficiently effective,” acting commissioner Iwanowicz said. “This new plan takes the lessons we’ve learned over 20 years and sets forth a strategy that will be instrumental in helping the state and local governments reach attainable goals for waste reduction.”

New York last issued a solid waste management plan in 1987. It placed a priority on preventing waste and made recycling mandatory. However, despite an increase in the awareness of recycling and reuse among the public and significant efforts by local governments, New York still generates about the same amount of waste today as in 1990 and only 20 percent of the municipal solid waste is being recycled.

The plan will help to guide communities around the state and will also be used by DEC and other state agencies in policy-making. The recommendations detailed in the plan include:

  • A new broad policy with a focus on waste prevention.
  • Education and incentives for consumers and businesses to help them reduce their generation of waste and recycle what cannot be reduced.
  • Policies and programs to improve waste prevention, reuse and recycling and to increase the recycling of organic materials, especially food waste.
  • A stronger emphasis on product and packaging stewardship, to extend responsibility for end-of-life management to manufacturers and, thereby, encourage them to use more recyclable and less toxic materials. By shifting some responsibility to the manufacturers, the plan also will aid local communities that currently shoulder the entire burden for materials management.

Earlier this year when the plan was first proposed, DEC conducted hearings and provided a public comment period which resulted in constructive input from stakeholders and the public. As a result, changes to the draft were made prior to finalization including: added emphasis that the plan does not establish any new mandates, but rather provides a framework with which municipalities and planning units can guide their management strategies; and retaining the original goal of reducing waste disposed to 0.6 pounds per-person, per-day, but extending the timeframe for realizing the plan’s goals from 2018 to 2030.