Otsego County begins food waste composting program

Julie Lewis | The Daily Star A bin for compost sits beside the scale house at the Oneonta Transfer Station on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Otsego County has begun a program to compost food waste in order to reduce its landfill contributions, according to a media release.

The program is open at the Southern Transfer Station at 75 Silas Lane in Oneonta, and is being run by a partnership between the Otsego County Solid Waste Department, the city of Oneonta, Casella Waste Management and Seward Sand & Gravel.

“As our landfills start to reach capacity, it is important that we find innovative solutions to reducing our overall waste output,” the media release said. “Many people have begun backyard composting. To help residents that may not be able to do this, or want an easier option, you can now simply bring your vegetables, grains, fruits and coffee grounds/filters to the Oneonta transfer station where it will be delivered to a local business, Seward Sand & Gravel for composting.”

There will be a fee of $1 per 6-gallon bucket of food waste, which is less than the $4 per bag cost of disposing garbage at the county’s transfer stations. The county will also sell 6-gal EcoCaddy food waste bins for $15 and 2-gal counter-top bins for $6.

In an email exchange, Shane Digan, the planner-trainee for Otsego County, said he wishes there was no fee for the composting, but the money is needed to cover Casella’s and Seward’s costs, and the fee will be re-evaluated once the program is established. Seward will then sell the food waste for composting, Digan said. 

“The charge is intended to help cover our costs for Casella to move the material (food waste) from the Oneonta transfer station to Seward Sand & Gravel,” Digan wrote. “It should still be more affordable ... for residents to utilize this program than not.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste makes up about 22 percent of municipal waste. Digan said with landfills reaching capacity, and few new landfills being created, the need to find alternative solutions for waste is crucial.

“The issue is mainly that there aren’t really any new landfills being built,” Digan wrote.

The program does not include meat, bones, fish, fats and paper products. It is only available at the Southern Transfer Station in Oneonta.

Digan said he is unsure if it will expanded to the Northern Transfer Station, which is just outside the village of Cooperstown, in the town of Otsego. He said the cost of transporting the food waste to Seward Sand & Gravel in Oneonta each week would make the cost higher for residents in the northern part of the county.

“If costs/income make sense I can see us trying to expand,” he wrote.

In related news, the county announced that it is now separating recycling material. At both transfer stations, cardboard materials will go into a dedicated bin. And in Cooperstown, glass will also be separated, as part of a trial program.

In addition, the Otsego County Board of Representatives approved a $12 fee for the dumping of large electronic items, effective Friday, Nov. 1. The fee applies to televisions, computer monitors and other large electronics.

The board unanimously approved the change as part of a consent agenda at its monthly meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Richfield, Springfield, the chair of the Solid Waste and Environmental Concerns Committee, said he also expects tip fees on garbage disposal to rise in 2020, with a proposed $7 rise to $87 per ton.

Go to www.otsegocounty.com/departments/solid_waste/index.php or call the Solid Waste Department at 607-547-4256 for more information.

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