- Actions and Recommendations Advance 'Circular Economy' to Promote Reuse, Prevent Landfilling, and Support Efforts to Meet New York's Climate Goals
- Public Comments Accepted Until May 15; Informational Webinar on April 11
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of the draft New York State Solid Waste Management Plan for a 60-day public comment period. The "New York State Solid Waste Management Plan: Building the Circular Economy Through Sustainable Materials Management" recommends actions to reduce the climate impact of solid waste and provides direction for New York's waste reduction, reuse, recycling, collection, transportation, and disposal investments, policies, and practices over the next decade.
"Solid waste is the fourth-largest contributor to climate-altering greenhouse gases and New York's efforts to reduce landfilled waste is critical to help meet the State's ambitious climate goals," Commissioner Seggos said. "The draft Solid Waste Management Plan is a roadmap for more sustainable solid waste management. By focusing on reducing waste at its source, returning materials back to productive use, and diverting waste from landfills, harmful greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided while sustaining the supply chain. New York continues to advance efforts that support cleaner and healthier communities, encourage product reuse, promote recycling, and protect our natural resources statewide."
The plan proposes a 10-year planning period, from 2023 through the end of 2032, with a broader planning horizon through 2050. The plan prioritizes advancing a circular economy and initiatives to prevent environmental degradation and economic loss by minimizing waste and ensuring valuable materials continue to circulate in the economy. A circular economy helps conserve natural resources, reduce energy consumption, prevent pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect the health of communities, with a focus on addressing unacceptable disproportionate burdens on Disadvantaged Communities and Potential Environmental Justice Areas. The draft plan is available on DEC's website and public comments will be accepted through Monday, May 15.
DEC will also host an informational webinar on the draft plan on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, from 10 - 11:30 a.m. During this time DEC will review the key elements of the Plan and allow attendees to ask questions. Attendees can register for the webinar via WebEx (leaves DEC website).
The release of the draft plan is a milestone in the history of the State's ongoing efforts to ensure New York is at the forefront of rethinking waste. The waste sector is the fourth-largest contributor to climate change-causing emissions, after buildings (1), transportation (2), and electricity (3). To meet the climate crisis, DEC is already advancing strategies to encourage a circular economy for other materials by designing for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, repairing, and recycling, as well as utilizing renewable resources and supporting a more sustainable food system. Diverting waste from landfills and renewing a resilient and recycled supply chain is integral to achieving the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a just and equitable transition to a greener economy.
In addition to resource conservation, the circular economy benefits communities across the state by reducing pollution and creating new jobs and economic opportunities. DEC estimates at least 80 percent of the material currently sent to landfills or combustion facilities has monetary value, either directly as material that could be used to produce goods or other beneficial uses, or indirectly through the creation of recycling sector jobs. Through a new business model materials with value can remain within the economy and continue to provide value instead of ending up in landfills or combustors. The plan outlines major goals and potential action items that may be taken to help meet these goals.
Examples of goals include, but are not limited to:
- Waste Prevention, Reduction, and Reuse
- Increase opportunities for New York State residents, businesses, and institutions to participate in waste prevention, reduction, and reuse; and
- Foster community resiliency by developing programs, supporting communities and organizations, and supporting proposals and initiatives that prevent and reduce waste and promote reuse.
- Product Stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
- Promote the development and passage of EPR legislation for packaging and paper products; and
- Promote the development and passage of EPR framework legislation, as well as EPR legislation for priority products, including textiles, furniture, solar panels, wind turbine blades, and electric vehicle batteries.
- Recycling and Recycling Market Development and Resiliency
- Support commercial, industrial, and institutional waste generators to improve recycling practices through education and technical assistance; and
- Support efforts in New York and the Northeast to build capacity for processing secondary material commodities collected for recycling
- Organics Reduction and Recycling
- Prioritize wasted food reduction, food donation, and food scraps recycling programs and initiatives in the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors; and
- Engage the farming and agriculture community in food donation, recycling organics waste, and using waste-derived organics products.
- Design and Operation of Solid Waste Management Facilities and Related Activities
- Minimize GHG emissions from solid waste management facilities; and
- Investigate innovative means of reducing environmental impacts from solid waste management activities.
The plan recognizes the importance of partnerships in achieving the solid waste management objectives for 2032 and beyond. It also includes a summary of the data relating to the current impacts of waste management on Disadvantaged Communities and Potential Environmental Justice Areas throughout the state to help identify disproportionate burdens and allow for meaningful analysis and policy options to address these circumstances.
Comments on the draft plan should be sent to NYSSolidWastePlan@dec.ny.gov (using "Comments on SSWMP" in the subject line) by May 15. After reviewing public comments on this draft, DEC will further refine the plan before adopting and publishing a final plan to guide New York's materials management efforts over the next 10 years.
Bolstering these efforts to recycle solid waste more efficiently, Governor Hochul's 2023-24 Executive Budget proposed the Waste Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (WRRIA) to properly manage and reduce waste throughout the state. This initiative will increase recycling rates, save local governments tens of millions of dollars annually - an estimated $150M in New York City alone - and protect the environment.
In 2021, New York City was faced with an estimated $458M cost to recycle packaging and printed paper, and even smaller municipalities like Syracuse ($2.9M) and North Tonawanda ($1.2M) are facing steep costs that could be significantly reduced with a change in packaging strategy. WRRIA would save millions of dollars by requiring producers or producer responsibility organizations (PROs) to develop, finance, and implement a program providing for the convenient collection and recycling of consumer packaging and paper products, the majority of which are recyclable materials. The law would also require a producer or PRO to consult with an advisory committee of diverse stakeholders, established by DEC, to assist in plan development and annual reporting. The bill would establish aggressive minimum recycling rates, recovery rates, post-consumer recycled content rates, and source reduction rates for producers to achieve, as well as set forth enforcement provisions and penalties for noncompliance. A new Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Fund would be established to support DEC's implementation of the program.
Note: DEC will hold a virtual media availability on the Draft Solid Waste Management Plan on Thursday, March 16 at 11:30 a.m. with Dereth Glance, DEC's Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Remediation and Materials Management.