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Warren County: Taking Organics and Recyclables Seriously

Warren County: Taking Organics and Recyclables Seriously June 19, 2024
A working group is seeking grants that might enable Warren County to build its own, intermunicipal recycling center – perhaps in Lake George.
A working group is seeking grants that might enable Warren County to build its own, intermunicipal recycling center – perhaps in Lake George.

If New York is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% before 2050, as required by state law, it must reduce food loss and waste by almost as much.

Methane from food rotting in landfills, gasses from waste incineration and carbon from trucks hauling garbage from one county to another are responsible for at least 12% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Warren County cannot save New York State, let alone the planet on its own, of course; its officials, however, are doing their best to play their part.

According to the county’s organics management plan, drafted in 2023, an industrial-sized, intermunicipal composting facility, capable of managing the county’s commercial and residential waste could divert compostable material such as food, brush and leaves from the waste stream, shrinking it by as much as 35%.

Whether or not such a facility is feasible “comes down to funding,” said Kevin Hajos, Warren County’s Superintendent of Public Works. “If we can get funding, we would be all for it.”

At the May 22 meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Works Committee, Hajos said that a working group, comprised of his department, elected Supervisors and Zero Waste, a citizens’ group, is developing “a unified vision, based on the 2023 organics management plan, of what to with food waste.”

Hajos said, “a public-private partnership might be the best solution, with Warren County contributing some of the start-up costs and the land on which the facility could be built.”

In addition to identifying sources of funds to meet capital expenses, a long-term business plan is required.

“Let’s figure out where the funding will come from,” said Hajos. 

Scott Royael, Warren County’s new Solid Waste and Recycling Compliance Coordinator, is in the process of identifying grants that might provide Warren County with the financing it needs to create a composting facility.

“If funds are limited, we could start with a pilot project and see how that goes; if it goes well, we could build upon that,” Hajos said in a May 8 interview.

The County’s Largest Waste Generators

As of now, the cost – in both fuel and carbon emissions – erases the benefits of requiring large generators of waste such as hotels, colleges and grocery stores to truck their organics to composting facilities beyond the county’s borders.

However, a state law that took effect in 2022 requires any facility creating more than two tons of waste per week to compost the food scraps if an organics recycler is located within 25 miles.

According to Kevin Hajos, Warren County is currently home to seven or eight facilities generating that volume of food scraps – at least one restaurant, one resort and a few supermarkets.

If a composting facility were situated in Warren County, in all likelihood, those generators would be required to truck waste to that location.  

Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who chairs the Public Works Committee, said the adoption of the so-called “New York State Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law” was among the catalysts driving the county to build a recycling facility and start composting on a large scale.

But, he said, “we should be doing it anyway.”

“The escalating costs of transportation and disposal require it,” said Conover. “those costs, on a county-wide basis, are significant.”


Prior to resigning his position as Solid Waste & Recycling Coordinator to take a better-paying position in Norwalk, Connecticut, Thomas Zabo was in the process of developing, in consultation with the working group, a coordinated program that could reduce every town’s costs to haul recycled items, such as cardboard, paper, plastic and glass. His successor, Scott Royael, has inherited that project, with promising results.

Starting in January, 2025, Warren County, rather than commercial haulers, will truck recyclables from the towns’ transfer stations to the centralized disposal facility. The county has purchased two trucks to be used for that purpose, taking possession of the first on June 6.

“Currently, the towns are paying a fortune to haul recyclables, and this will certainly be a cheaper alternative, especially for the upcounty towns that are farther away from the disposal facility,” said Hajos.

The working group is also seeking grants that might enable Warren County to build its own, intermunicipal recycling center – perhaps in Lake George.

“The waste stream doesn’t stop, does it?” Hajos told the Supervisors at the May 22 meeting.  “It just keeps coming.”

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