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County Recycling Rate Continues to Exceed National Average

May 7, 2013 -- In 2012, Westchester County again recycled 52 percent of its total waste stream, with nine municipalities recycling at least 70 percent, County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced Tuesday.

"I am very proud of what our residents, local businesses and schools do every day to recycle their waste," said Astorino. "Our overall recycling rates continue to far outpace the national average of 34 percent, as  estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By recycling, we not only help to protect our environment, but we also save tax dollars."

Astorino singled out nine municipalities for recycling at least 70 percent of their waste: Scarsdale (76 percent), Pelham Manor (74 percent), White Plains (73 percent), Briarcliff (71 percent), Bronxville (71 percent), Rye Brook (71 percent), Pleasantville (70 percent), Rye City (70 percent) and Sleepy Hollow (70 percent). 

These recycling rates include a wide variety of materials the municipalities collected and diverted for  reuse purposes beyond cans, bottles and paper collected curbside, such as large wood debris following Hurricane Sandy, roadway millings, large bulk metals and construction debris.

This is the second consecutive year that the county as a whole recycled 52 percent of its waste. The county benefits financially in two ways: revenues from selling recyclables brought to the county's Material Recovery Facility ("MRF") in Yonkers (such as newsprint, cardboard, metals, plastics and glass containers) and disposal costs avoided. The MRF is used by 36 of Westchester's 43 municipalities that are part of the county's Refuse Disposal District.   

Specifically, for 2012 the 70,000 tons of recyclables brought to the MRF generated more than $6 million in revenue. In addition, the county saved about $6 million in not having to dispose of these materials as garbage.

During this same time period, the volume of residential trash generated within the county's refuse disposal district – which accounts for about 90 percent of the county's population – decreased for the fifth consecutive year. In 2007, residents disposed of a record high 540,217 tons of garbage, compared to 376,890 tons in 2012, a reduction of 30.2 percent.

Significantly more dollars can be saved, Astorino noted, if county residents went beyond recycling and reduced the amount of garbage they generate in the first place.

In 2012, county residents generated 3.81 pounds of garbage per person per day (PPPD). While this is better than the national average of 4.43 PPPD, the New York State goal is to get this down to 0.6 PPPD by 2030. As an interim step, Astorino said, if every resident could reduce his waste by one pound per day it could save another $12 million to $14 million annually.  

"We are talking about huge savings," he said. "This is why the county government, through our Department of Environmental Facilities, works so hard not only to encourage recycling but to support innovative local programs that promote ways to reduce garbage."

For example: food waste reduction programs that can redistribute fresh and packaged foods to those that need it and convert food scraps into compost; mulching-in-place lawn maintenance practices (as being promoted by local Love 'Em and Leave 'Em programs); and charitable programs for the redistribution of useable items to those in need (as with Furniture Sharehouse and the county's Treasure Hunt program).

Astorino also recently announced a partnership with Friends of Westchester Parks on a reusable bottle initiative aimed at reducing waste and conserving green space. Those who join Friends of Parks get a free water bottle.

To calculate the county's recycling rate, the Department of Environmental Facilities analyzes reports by all county municipalities as well as about 150 licensed private haulers who operate in Westchester. These reports detail the amount of trash generated and the amount of materials recycled, including curbside, bulk metal, electronics, yard waste and construction debris. Also included is boat wrap collected every spring from participating marinas, papers shredded by the county's Mobile Shredder and special household wastes delivered to the county's Household-Material Recovery Facility (H-MRF) in Valhalla.

Most of the county's nonrecycled garbage is disposed of at the Charles Point Waste-to-Energy  (WTE) Facility in Peekskill, where it is used to produce electricity that powers about 88,000 homes.

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