State ‘Rethinks Waste’ in New Management Plan
ALBANY—In December of 2023, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the finalization of the 2023-2032 New York State Solid Waste Management Plan, referred to by officials as “a milestone in the state’s ongoing efforts to ensure New York is at the forefront of rethinking waste.”
“The New York State Solid Waste Management Plan: Building the Circular Economy through Sustainable Materials Management” is a 10-year plan that describes 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. The prior plan, “Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy,” was released in 2010.
“The state’s new Solid Waste Management Plan is a roadmap for advancing more sustainable solid waste management to reduce landfilled waste and address one of New York’s largest contributors to climate-altering greenhouse gases,” Commissioner Seggos said in a press release. “Working closely with DEC’s state, local, and community partners, New York State is bolstering existing efforts to divert waste from landfills, return materials back to productive use, and reduce climate emissions.”
Diverting waste from landfills and renewing a resilient and recycled supply chain is integral to achieving goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that include reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a just and equitable transition to a greener economy. The Solid Waste Management Plan sets forth six major focus areas to move the circular economy and materials management industry forward in New York State: waste reduction and reuse; recycling and recycling market development and resiliency; product stewardship and extended producer responsibility; organics reduction and recycling; toxics reduction in products; and advanced design and operation of solid waste management facilities and related activities.
According to officials, DEC is already taking action to support items identified in the plan, including awarding nearly $2.9 million in grant funding to 23 municipalities statewide to help establish or expand food scrap recycling programs and facilities. Nearly $1.9 million of this funding was prioritized to 13 projects serving communities in Potential Environmental Justice Areas and helps support the continued equitable development of the organics recycling industry across the state.
DEC awarded nearly $2.2 million in grant funding to 47 emergency food relief organizations to assist with the purchase of equipment (such as trucks, refrigerated vehicles, freezers, and refrigerators) which will assist these organizations in providing food to the more than two million people in New York State facing hunger. This financial assistance addresses the capacity and transportation needs of emergency food relief organizations across the state and supports the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling law. DEC recently celebrated a milestone in the law’s implementation by reaching five million pounds of food donated to New Yorkers in need through DEC’s initiative with Feeding New York State.
DEC received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program to assist New York in implementing online reporting for solid waste management and recycling facilities regulated by DEC, helping facilitate timely data reporting, data evaluation, compliance evaluations, and enforcement.
DEC is engaging with reuse partners across the state and will continue to work more closely with partners to identify needs to expand infrastructure and building material reuse, promote deconstruction and reuse through outreach and education, and develop priorities and strategies to ensure materials from the built environment are reused for their highest and best use.
The action items and the state’s investments are designed to move New York State to an 85 percent total waste stream recycling rate by 2050. Several initiatives to advance waste reduction were also included in the State’s Climate Action Council final Scoping Plan and would require legislative changes, such as expanding the state’s food donation and food scraps recycling law, reducing packaging and paper product waste, and proposing disposal disincentives on all waste landfilled or combusted in New York.
As part of the public process in developing the plan, DEC released a draft for public review in March 2023 along with an informational webinar and an extended public comment period. The final plan released in December includes revisions and clarifications based on the DEC’s review of approximately 1,400 comments submitted by individuals, organizations, municipalities, associations, elected officials, businesses, among other stakeholders.
To read the full management plan, and to review DEC’s assessment of public comments received on the draft plan, visit https://dec.ny.gov/environmental-protection/waste-management/solid-waste-management-planning/nys.