Assemblymember Kelles Hosts Chair of NYS Senate Environmental Conservation Committee to Discuss District Priorities

Senator Peter Hackham visits Ithaca, discusses circular economy and flooding mitigation

Ithaca, NY Assemblymember Anna Kelles hosted New York State Senator Peter Harckham, chair of the NY Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, in Ithaca on September 28 as the Senator toured the state to discuss environmental priorities.Assemblymember Kelles prioritized two issues of the district: promotion of a circular economy and flood mitigation efforts within the community. Senator Harckham's visit included meetings and discussions with local leaders, stakeholders, and residents to explore innovative solutions and collaborate on building a sustainable and resilient future for Ithaca.

Circular Economy Dialogue at Ithaca Reuse

Senator Harckham's visit included a tour of Ithaca Reuse, a renowned non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainability by reducing waste through reuse and recycling. At Ithaca Reuse, the Senator engaged in a dynamic dialogue with community leaders, environmental advocates, and representatives of the organization about the importance of fostering a circular economy in New York State. A circular economy emphasizes the reduction of waste, efficient use of resources, and the promotion of recycling and reuse. Senator Harckham recognized Ithaca's pioneering efforts in embracing circular economy principles and expressed his commitment to supporting statewide initiatives to replicate Ithaca's successes.

Diane Cohen, Chief Executive Officer of the Finger Lakes Reuse Centers stated, “Tompkins County has been actively supporting waste reduction for more than 20 years. As a result of this planning, Finger Lakes ReUse was formed as a unique independent enterprise that has been demonstrating the powerful economic, environmental, and social impacts of reuse for the last 15 years. It has been recognized for its innovative programs by the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, US Environmental Protection Agency, and Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce among others.

Now that the organization has revealed the enormity of the potential opportunity found in reusable, repairable and refurbishable materials, as well as the enthusiastic public participation in this alternative to the dumpster, the next step is to develop a right-sized, comprehensive reuse system, in partnership with many stakeholders including the existing waste and recycling management systems, thrift industry, manufacturers, universities, developers etc.

As we look forward to diminishing landfill capacity, increasing costs to export and transport waste, with the only remaining alternative is incineration, a comprehensive solution to filter out valuable products and materials prior to entering the “waste stream” at a scale comparable to the current waste and recycling system, and achievable through public-private partnerships makes good sense.

We welcome Senator Harkham and Assemblymember Kelles to tour our ReUse MegaCenter to get a glimpse of the possibilities including waste diversion, workforce development, community resilience and poverty relief activities.”

Senator Harckham stated, "Ithaca is setting an inspiring example for New York State by prioritizing sustainability and waste reduction. We must learn from their innovative approaches and work collaboratively to establish circular economy practices that benefit our environment, economy, and communities."

Community Collaboration on Flood Mitigation and Resilience

Addressing the critical issue of flood mitigation and resilience in Ithaca was a key focus of the visit. With climate change exacerbating the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, flood mitigation measures are essential for protecting communities and infrastructure.

The Senator met with Cornell University experts to discuss Ithaca's flood map and strategies to bolster flood resilience. These discussions emphasized the need for proactive planning and investment in flood mitigation infrastructure, public awareness, and community engagement.

Assemblymember Anna Kelles stated, “Ithaca constituents have been prioritizing waste reduction and developing a circular economy for decades, and we want to be a leading example for how this can be feasibly implemented across New York. Sharing these elegant and successful community-based business solutions with Senator Harckham is a critical next step in developing a statewide legislative coalition. Also, like many communities in New York, our district depends on the health and safety of our water resources. As the Senate Chair of the Environmental Conservation committee, Senator Harckham is graciously touring our upstate Finger Lakes so that we can share both our challenges and proposed solutions to being stewards of our water resources, and for that, I’m deeply grateful. Our environmental challenges will only escalate as climate change continues. We need to take bold and robust steps now to implement solutions.”