September 29, 2012


Dirty recyclables vex city

Officials trying to educate people that items need to be clean

RecycleJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Matt Bevins of Cassella’s Waste Systems collects recyclables Friday morning along Argyle Place in Cortland. City officials say recycling on the South End is sometimes too dirty to be accepted and are urging people to make sure it is cleaned before being put out for collection.

Staff Reporter

Cortland is having trouble with dirty recyclables being collected by Casella Waste Management, primarily in the 5th Ward.
Mayor Brian Tobin, Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi and Casella Manager John Gale all said the South End of the city is having an issue with its recycling, mainly that items being collected from some residences are too dirty for the recycling center on Pendleton Street to accept.
Beginning in February, the recycling center began denying some of the deliveries that came from Friday's haul, which is the day the 5th Ward is collected. Then, for six months, Casella had to figure out what to do with the rejected material.
The solution was to take it to the Tompkins County Recycling Center in Ithaca, a procedure that added man hours and transportation cost to Casella's budget.
Once that became too costly, the center in Cortland decided to accept anything, but that still is not a solution, Bistocchi said.
When the dirty recyclables are brought to the Cortland center, which is run by J.M. Murray center, they are sent to the landfill as trash and not recycled.
"This fills up the space in the landfill a lot faster," Gale said. "There has to be a better way."
Tobin said Bistocchi was the bridge between Casella and the recycling center to come to the agreement that would allow all recycling to be dropped off in Cortland.
While there is no direct economic impact on the city for Casella's extra hauling to Ithaca, Tobin said it could become an issue in the future.
"When it comes time for bids, (Casella's) could be much higher than we expected," he said.
Trash and recycling are picked up five days a week in the city.
An educational campaign in the form of pamphlets and stickers put on recycling containers has helped alleviate the situation a little, Bistocchi said, but that is still not enough.
Orange stickers give eight reasons why the recycling was not picked up, and Gale said the most common reason why people get the sticker is because recyclables are not reasonably clean.
"We handed out literature and now it's up to the property owners and residents to take care of it," he said.
Prior to Casella hauling the dirty recycling to Ithaca, the company would simply leave the bin where it sat on the property and leave an orange sticker explaining why it was not accepted.
Now that it is all being collected, offenders still get the same sticker, which Tobin and Bistocchi said is part of the ongoing education.
"The South End has a lot of people coming and going, so residents may not be aware of the rules," he said. "Hopefully, the stickers, along with Casella letting people know this isn't acceptable, will start to change things."
At the beginning of each year, Bistocchi produces and distributes a pamphlet that explains the recycling system.
The pamphlet explains what is and is not allowed to be recycled in bold black lettering. It also says the trash and recyclables left behind must be taken off the curb within 24 hours or the landowner will be subject to a penalty.
"We can't just depend on people knowing the rules," Tobin said. "We have even had issues with our blue bag system for trash and the rules are written directly on every bag."


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