Zero Waste


The Concept of Zero Waste

The N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has prepared a new State Solid Waste Plan that recognizes that materials in our waste stream are valuable and need to be preserved. We strongly endorse its preference for waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting over disposal. The less waste we dispose of the more environmental, economic and social benefits that we will enjoy.

Unfortunately, millions of tons of garbage are still being wasted through disposal in landfills or incinerators. The DEC estimates New York’s recycling rate to be only 20%, far short of the 50% reduction and recycling goal that was to be met by 1997 under the State Solid Waste Management Act of 1988. A large portion of waste headed for disposal is recyclable (50%) or compostable (30%). To achieve the goals of the Plan, we must stop trashing our resources through disposal!

  • Incinerators emit toxic air emissions and produce toxic incinerator ash that needs landfilling. They also emit more CO2 than coal burning plants per MWh. Incinerators must have burnable materials and therefore compete with recycling.
  • Recycling saves 4-5 times the energy an incinerator recovers. Incineration is not renewable energy.

To address climate change we must address waste in our society!

  • For every trash bag we put at the curb, 70 bags of trash were generated by industry to make the products we buy. The production of products and packaging is associated with 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Biodegradable materials in landfills emit methane, a gas that has 72 times the global warming potential of CO2, over a 20 year period. Landfill gas collection systems capture only about 20% of landfill gas.
  • The best strategy is to divert biodegradable organic material away from landfills and incinerators to composting. Compost provides nutrients for healthy soils and plants. 

Burning and burying garbage wastes money, energy, and natural resources; it contributes to climate change and places an unfair pollution and health burden on nearby communities. Diversion saves energy and resources, and creates many more jobs in collection, processing, reuse of goods and remanufacturing of materials.

Maximizing waste reduction and diversion will dramatically decrease waste sent for disposal over time by 70%, 80%, 90% and more, enabling New York to achieve the significant benefits of a more sustainable system. The ultimate goal should be Zero Waste being sent to Disposal or very close to it.