Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management
4 Empire State Plaza, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12248
Richard D. Morse,Executive Director
Patrick Golden, Principal Author
Marilyn M. DuBois, Editor

Where Will The
Garbage Go? 2002

Letter from Chairman Colton:

I am pleased to issue the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management report Where Will the Garbage Go? for the reporting year 2001. Although the report is now produced in a streamlined format, it continues to provide a comprehensive overview of how municipal solid waste (MSW) is managed in New York State. I trust that you will continue to find it useful.

This year, the Commission has utilized electronic correspondence to collect data, including information which we have requested for the first time. This report presents the historically-collected data on the tonnages of waste managed in New York State. New categories of information collected will be discussed separately in an upcoming Commission publication.

Overall, municipal solid waste management activity in the year 2001 was strongly impacted by changes in New York City’s waste management system. Ending MSW disposal at New York City’s Fresh Kills landfill in March 2001 altered statewide waste management figures substantially. Continuing the trend of the previous four years, increased amounts of MSW were exported, recycling continued its upward trend, and landfilling in the state decreased (primarily due to the closure of Fresh Kills). The continuing trend in MSW export has prompted waste-importing states to pursue federal legislation allowing states to restrict waste import.

In New York City, major changes to the recycling program have created much confusion among City residents. Recently the City re-instated the recycling of plastic containers, after suspending both plastic and glass recycling one year earlier. Fortunately, the reinstatement of plastic recycling has occurred with more favorable contract terms for the City with new contractor Hugo Neu Schnitzer East. The City has also announced that it will re-instate glass collection next year. These are positive aspects for the City’s recycling program.

Unfortunately, the City recently reduced the pickup schedule for recyclables from weekly to bi-weekly, claiming necessary budget reductions required this action. Although the pick-up schedule is slated to return to its previous weekly routine in April 2004, I have opposed these cutbacks over concerns that the irregularity and burden of greater storage of recyclables would lead to confusion, discouragement and, ultimately, declines in participation. I remain hopeful that after weekly pick-ups and glass recycling are resumed, the City’s recycling program can significantly improve and grow, simultaneously creating jobs and reducing MSW, pollution, and energy usage. Success in the City’s program could further spur efficiency and environmental improvements in recycling and waste management activities statewide.

As the Commission’s Chair, the issue of managing waste tires has also been a priority. Earlier this year, the Legislature and the Governor finally agreed on establishing a program to address the longstanding statewide environmental and health problems posed by waste tires. A fund, financed by a fee on new tire sales, was created in the FY 2003-2004 State Budget to clean up dangerous, unhealthy abandoned tire piles and foster markets to recover tires.

Another Commission priority, the regulation of an ever-increasing number of electronic equipment discards, must be addressed. Electronic equipment components contain numerous hazardous materials, including lead and mercury. I believe we must expand reuse, recovery and re-manufacturing options for used electronics to prevent inappropriate disposal activities (including those exploited in export to other countries) and support a promising new category of sustainable industries.

As always, I appreciate your interest in this report and other Commission efforts. I remain open to your suggestions regarding our work to continually improve waste management in this State. Please contact the Commission with your comments and ideas.

Assemblyman William Colton, Chair
Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management

Table of Contents
  1. Major Findings
  2. Tables, Graphs, Lists
  3. Municipal Solid Waste Financial Assistance
  4. Flow of Municipal Solid Waste
  5. Conclusion

  • In 2001, 24.8 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were managed in or exported from New York State, an increase of 3.1% from the 2000 total.
  • The amount of the MSW identified as recycled was 7.4 million tons, representing 29.8% of the total identified waste stream, an increase of 5.2% from 2000.
  • Waste disposed at the 28 operating MSW landfills in New York State during 2001 totaled 6.6 million tons, a 12.7% decrease from the previous year.1 Landfilled waste accounted for 26.7% of the total waste stream in 2001.
  • Waste combusted at 10 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants totaled 3.7 million tons, an increase of 50,000 tons (1.3%) from the 2000 level. This option accounted for 14.9% of the managed waste.
  • Waste exported from the State totaled 7.1 million tons, an increase of 1.2 million tons, or 22.2%, from 2000.1 Export represented 28.6% of the waste stream.
  • There were 28 operating MSW landfills, the same number that operated in 2000. During 2001 there was one landfill closing - Fresh Kills in NYC - but there were no openings.
    1 Much of the landfilling decrease and export growth in 2001 can be attributed to the increased diversion of New York City Department of Sanitation-collected waste from disposal at the City’s Fresh Kills landfill to facilities outside the State. Waste disposed at Fresh Kills was down 1.3 million tons from the previous year — from 1.49 million in 2000 to only 148,000 in 2001.

    Waste Management Summary
    in thousands of tons
    (percentage of year’s total
    waste in parentheses)

    Option 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
    Recycling 1,635 (8.2) 2,072 (10.3) 2,975 (14.8) 3,189 (15.8) 4,432 (21.2) 4,591 (22.5)
    WTE 3,096 (15.6) 3,371 (16.7) 3,421 (17.0) 3,386 (16.8) 3,542 (16.9) 3,668 (18.0)
    Incineration 969 (4.9) 880 (4.4) 500 (2.5) 29 (0.1) 0 0
    Landfill 10,438 (52.4) 9,958 (49.4) 9,358 (46.4) 9,431 (46.8) 9,085 (43.5) 8,6221 (42.3)
    Export 3,774 (19.0) 3,874 (19.2) 3,907 (19.4) 4,119 (20.4) 3,849 (18.4) 3,505 (17.2)
    Total 19,912 (100) 20,156 (100) 20,160 (100) 20,154 (100) 20,908 (100) 20,386 (100)
    Option 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 % change 2000-2001
    Recycling 5,087 (25.1) 5,238 (24.7) 5,903 (25.9) 7,017 (29.2) 7,384 (29.8) + 5.2
    WTE 3,677 (18.1) 3,670 (17.3) 3,680 (16.1) 3,638 (15.1) 3,686 (14.9) + 1.3
    Landfill 7,7851 (38.4) 7,9621 (37.5) 8,1271 (35.6) 7,5721 (31.5) 6,6101 (26.7) - 12.7
    Export 3,717 (18.3) 4,346 (20.5) 5,095 (22.3) 5,804 (24.2) 7,095 (28.6) +22.2
    Total 20,266 (100) 21,218 (100) 22,805 (100) 24,031 (100) 24,775 (100) + 3.1

    This table shows the yearly tons managed by various waste management alternatives and totals from 1991 through 2001. The last column shows percentage changes in those tonnages from 2000 to 2001. The total tons of waste identified have risen from 19.9 million in 1991 to 24.8 million in 2001 (24.4%).

    1 This year’s report excludes waste that was disposed at five landfills in the years from 1996 to 2001. These facilities used to be primarily MSW landfills and, while their inclusion in the data was continued for consistency in yearly comparisons, since 1996 they have disposed primarily non-MSW materials. The Commission now excludes these landfills’ data to retain this report’s primary focus on MSW management.

    Waste Management Comparison

    This chart is a graphical illustration of the yearly tons of solid waste managed by various waste management methods. It shows the ten-year trends of the waste managed by these methods: growth in recycling; constancy in waste-to-energy; decline in landfilling; and growth in export.

    Municipal Recycling
    in New York State 1991-2001

    This chart shows the upward trend in recycling reported by municipalities or planning units from 1991 to 2001. Reported recycling rose from 1.6 million in 1991 to 7.4 million in 2001, an increase of 363% for the ten-year span. It is unclear how much of the gain is attributed to more recycling or greater identification of recycling activity (e.g. recycling that is done in the private sector).


    This chart shows the tons of solid waste disposed in waste-to-energy facilities in New York State from 1991 to 2001. It indicates modest growth over the first half of the 1990s as capacity rose. In the latter half of the decade and through 2001, the yearly amounts changed little as no facilities opened or closed. Overall, the tonnage of waste disposed in waste-to-energy facilities has increased by 19.1% since 1991.

    AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2001
    Facility Name County Owner Type
    Hempstead RRF Nassau Private
    Islip RRF Suffolk Municipal
    Babylon RRF Suffolk Municipal
    Huntington RRF Suffolk Municipal
    Dutchess Co. RRA Dutchess County
    Charles Point RRF Westchester County
    Adirondack RRF Washington County
    Onondaga Co. RRA Onondaga County
    Oswego Co. Oswego County
    American Ref-Fuel -Niagara Falls Niagara Private

    Disposal in Sanitary Landfills

    This chart shows the solid waste disposed at sanitary landfills in New York State from 1991 through 2001. The 3.8 million ton (36.7%) decrease in the yearly amount of waste landfilled from 1991 to 2001 is largely attributable to the closure of Fresh Kills landfill in New York City, which dropped its disposed tons from 3.9 million in 1996 to 150,000 in 2001, when in March it ceased accepting MSW (the wreckage from the World Trade Center attack brought to the landfill is not included here). The year before Fresh Kills closed, calendar year 2000, it accepted approximately 1.5 million tons of waste.

    Out-of-State Disposal

    This chart shows annual tons of MSW exported out of New York State for disposal. The 88% increase in annual exports is primarily attributable to increased diversion of waste from Fresh Kills landfill, as it phased out of operation from 1997 to 2001.

    Number of Sanitary Landfills by Yearly Tonnages
    1988 & 2001

    Thousands of tons/year 1988 2001
    Total Publicly
    < 100 167 11 178 11 1 12
    100 to 500 17 8 25 10 1 11
    > 500 1 2 3 0 5 5
    Total 185 21 206 21 7 28

    This chart shows the number of operating landfills by annual intake in 1988 and 2001 with a breakdown between public and private ownership of the facilities. The number of operating sanitary landfills was 86.3% lower in 2001 than it was in 1988, but nearly the entire decline from 205 to 28 occurred by 1997, when the number had fallen to 30 (not shown here). Nearly all of the landfills closed since 1988 (as well as prior to that) were small municipal landfills, primarily town dumps.

    AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2001
    Facility Name County Owner Type

    Al Turi Orange Private
    Sullivan County Sullivan County
    Greater Albany Albany Municipal
    Colonie Town Albany Municipal
    Delaware County Delaware County
    Schuyler Falls Clinton County
    Franklin County Franklin County
    Fulton County Fulton County
    Development Authority of the North Country Jefferson County
    Broome County Broome County
    Auburn City Cayuga Municipal
    Chenango County Chenango County
    Cortland County Cortland County
    Madison County Madison County
    Bristol Hill Oswego County
    Chemung County Chemung County
    Mill Seat Monroe County
    High Acres Western Expansion Monroe Private
    Ontario County Ontario County
    Seneca Meadows Seneca Private
    Steuben County Steuben County
    Allegany County Allegany County
    Hyland Allegany Private
    Ellery Chautauqua County
    CID Erie Private
    Modern Niagara Private
    Niagara Recycling Niagara Private

    Solid Waste Management in New York State by
    DEC Region in 2001
    (in thousands of tons)

    DEC Region Recycling WTE Landfill Export TOTAL
    1 808 (28%) 1,600 (56%) 0 (0%) 443 (16%) 2,851
    2 2,343 (28%) 0 (0%) 148 (2%) 5,800 (70%) 8,291
    3 1,232 (40%) 825 (27%) 211 (7%) 845 (27%) 3,113
    4 137 (23%) 0 (0%) 471 (77%) 0 (0%) 608
    5 46 (9%) 146 (27%) 341 (64%) 0 (0%) 533
    6 244 (48%) 0 (0%) 265 (52%) 0 (0%) 509
    7 1120 (61%) 403 (22%) 300 (16%) 4 (0%) 1,827
    8 847 (24%) 0 (0%) 2,705 (76%) 0 (0%) 3,552
    9 607 (17%) 712 (20%) 2,169 (62%) 3 (0%) 3,491
    TOTAL 7,384 (30%) 3,686 (15%) 6,610 (27%) 7,095 (29%) 24,775

    This chart summarizes how waste was managed in each DEC region during 2001. Recycling tons are as reported by the counties (or planning units) of the region. Waste shown as landfilled or burned represents total disposal in the region, which sometimes includes waste from outside of the region (especially in Regions 8 and 9). The waste export category refers to waste generated in the region which was sent out-of-state.

    By DEC Region

    Region 1
    Town of Babylon
    Town of Brookhaven
    Town of East Hampton
    City of Glen Cove
    Town of Hempstead
    Town of Huntington
    Town of Islip
    City of Long Beach
    Town of North Hempstead
    Town of Oyster Bay
    Town of Riverhead
    Town of Shelter Island
    Town of Smithtown
    Town of Southampton
    Town of Southold
    Fishers’ Island

    Region 2
    New York City

    Region 3
    Dutchess County RRA
    Orange County
    Putnam County
    Rockland County SWMA
    Sullivan County
    Ulster County RRA
    Westchester County

    Region 4
    Town of Colonie
    Columbia County
    Delaware County
    Greene County
    Montgomery, Otsego, Schoharie SWMA
    Eastern Rensselaer County SWMA
    Greater Troy SWMA
    Schenectady County

    Region 5
    Clinton County
    Essex County
    Franklin County
    Fulton County
    Hamilton County
    Saratoga County
    Washington/Warren Counties

    Region 6
    Jefferson County
    Lewis County
    Oneida-Herkimer SWMA
    St. Lawrence County

    Region 7
    Broome County
    Cayuga County
    Chenango County
    Cortland County
    Madison County
    Onondaga County
    Oswego County
    Tioga County
    Tompkins County

    Region 8
    Chemung County
    Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming Counties (GLOW)
    Monroe County
    Schuyler County
    Steuben County
    Western Finger Lakes SWMA

    Region 9
    Alllegany County
    Cattaraugus County
    Chautauqua County
    Erie County
    Northwest Communities of Erie County
    Niagara County


    New York State has a long history of funding municipal solid waste management programs. The following section provides descriptions of programs developed over the years to support municipal waste reduction and recycling, resource recovery project development, solid waste management planning, and landfill closure.

    1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act

    The Bond Act was approved by the voters in November 1996, and provides $1.75 billion for a wide range of environmental projects. The Act authorized $175 million for solid waste projects including: 1) $50 million for municipal recycling projects; 2) $50 million for closing, capping, and other costs, including gas recovery projects, associated with solid waste disposal at municipal landfills (90% grants for communities with less than 3,500 population; 50% or a $2 million cap on grants for the remainder); and 3) $75 million toward the cost of closing and capping New York City’s Fresh Kills landfill.

    The State’s FY 2001-2002 budget included the following Bond Act appropriations: $13 million for municipal recycling grants; $2 million for municipal landfill closure; and, $30 million for Fresh Kills’ closure. These completed the full appropriation of the $175 million provided for all project categories of the Bond Act’s Solid Waste Account.

    Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)

    The 1993 Environmental Protection Act (Chapters 610 and 611) established the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF was designed to provide financial assistance for solid waste management projects, including local solid waste management plans. Dedicated funds of the EPF are appropriated annually to the various programs by the Governor and the Legislature.

    In the FY 2002/2003 budget, EPF appropriations were made for two fiscal years – 2001/02 and 2002/03. Solid waste appropriations for FY2001/02 were $5.225 million for the Municipal Recycling program, administered through DEC, and $5.225 million for the Secondary Materials program, administered through the Department of Economic Development. The appropriations for the same programs for FY 2002/03 were $5 million each.1

    EPF Landfill Closure Funds

    Landfill closure grants under the EPF are available for 50% of the project cost, up to a maximum of $2 million, except for municipalities with populations under 3,500. These smaller localities can receive a 90% grant, plus no-interest loans for the remaining 10%. Low-interest loans are also available for the municipal share of funding through the Environmental Facilities Corporation (see SRF description below).2

    EPF Waste Reduction and Recycling Projects Funding

    The EPF provides funds for two recycling programs, the waste reduction and recycling program and the secondary materials marketing program, administered by DEC and DED respectively. DEC’s municipal waste reduction and recycling program provides 50% matching grants to municipalities for costs incurred in waste reduction or recycling projects, for which the cost of recycling education projects, including municipal recycling coordinators, also became eligible through the passage of State legislation in 2000. DED’s secondary materials marketing program provides 50% matching grants to municipalities, not-for-profit, and private sector organizations for development of recycling markets. This program was expanded in 1998 to include grants for waste prevention.

    State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF)

    Pursuant to the Federal Water Quality Act of 1987, New York State provides low-interest loans to municipalities for sewage treatment plant construction and expansion through the SRF. The Environmental Facilities Corporation, which administers the SRF, is now also providing low-interest loans for municipal landfill closure under this program.

    1 FY 2003/04 budget appropriations included $6.5 million for the Municipal Recycling program and $6.5 million for the Secondary Materials programs.
    2 Landfill closure funding is also provided under the State Superfund Program (Title 3) for municipally-owned landfills which have received hazardous waste.


    The 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Carbone case overturned “flow control” laws that directed MSW to designated facilities. That decision led an increased number of haulers to shop around for the best current disposal arrangement. This often impacted municipalities and solid waste authorities that relied on the guaranteed tonnage provided by “flow control” to finance new disposal and recycling facilities in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Efforts to blunt the impact of the Court’s decision were successful in a few areas, most notably Smithtown and Babylon on Long Island where waste collection districts were instituted creating “contractual” or “economic” flow control arrangements. These systems, however, have not proven workable for many municipalities and solid waste authorities that relied on flow control, and many have since had to subsidize their operations so that lowered tip fees would attract haulers.

    A recent U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, has now validated the means by which many municipalities initially instituted flow control. In July 2001, the case was decided in favor of Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority stating that flow control ordinances like Oneida-Herkimer’s are allowable because they direct waste to publicly-owned facilities. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition to appeal, thereby validating the Second Circuit Court’s decision.


    In recent years, dramatic changes in New York City’s waste management practices have substantially contributed to the solid waste management trends statewide. The phaseout of the City’s Fresh Kills landfill operations and recent changes in the City’s recycling program have and will continue to significantly impact the overall summary of the State’s waste management activities.

    New York State’s significant decline in landfilling has been primarily attributable to New York City’s closure of its landfill. The State’s corresponding significant increase in solid waste export has been primarily due to the City’s increase in the transport of waste out-of-state for disposal. Likewise, recent substantial changes in the City’s reported recycling data substantially impact the aggregate of recycling statewide.

    While solid waste management statewide is not wholly defined by the activities in New York City (the largest single waste management collection system in the State and probably the Nation), the City’s system has considerable impact on the State’s waste management. The City continues to reevaluate and implement changes to its system. It is critical that the City, as well as the entire State, maintains the goal of managing solid waste in an environmentally sound and cost-effective manner, encouraging waste reduction, increased recycling, and creative solutions.

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