Westchester County recycling numbers outperform EPA standards

Louis Vetrone, deputy commissioner of solid waste, describes Louis Vetrone, deputy commissioner of solid waste, describes the recycling facility in Yonkers. (Oct. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

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Efforts to go green are making a difference in Westchester, which recycled 52 percent of its garbage last year, outpacing the Environmental Protection Agency's national goal of a 35 percent recycling rate, according to county officials.

And for the fifth year in a row, the volume of garbage generated by residents also declined, dropping to 3.81 pounds of trash per person per day, compared with the national rate of 4.43 pounds per day. A total of 376,890 tons were collected from homes last year, a reduction of 30.2 percent since a 2007 record high of 540,217 tons hauled from residences.

"A lot of it has to do with recycling education," said Louis Vetrone, deputy commissioner for the county's Department of Environmental Facilities. But he said national trends have been helpful, too, as product manufacturers use less packaging and electronics makers run e-waste programs that encourage shoppers to turn in TVs and computers they no longer want.

Other reasons for better recycling stats are more subtle. "Whenever there is a slower economy, there is less trash," Vetrone said.

Westchester County also has been running special collections, with more in the works. This year, as in springs past, the county will collect boat wrap from participating marinas. The popular county-owned, mobile shredding truck makes stops in various municipalities where residents line up to dispose of confidential documents. Residents also can make appointments at the county's Household Material Recovery Facility in Valhalla, where they can drop off hazardous items such as automotive fluids, e-waste and Freon-containing appliances.

At the end of this month, the county plans to launch a three-month pilot demonstration project featuring a food composter. The goal is to encourage companies and organizations to compost food scraps -- the next frontier in recycling because food usually accounts for about 25 percent of all garbage, Vetrone said.

"If you can show people they can save money, they're going to do it, obviously," Vetrone said, adding that food composting can significantly a facility's garbage hauling expenses.

Once the pilot program ends, the county will be looking to launch a food composting program that would possibly recycle food taken from the county prison and Rye Playland, Vetrone told Newsday.

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