Stock image of a landfill in Canada.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Tompkins County has been successful at reducing the amount of waste per person through a mix of programs, according to an audit released last week from the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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“We commend County officials for implementing these programs, reducing waste and monitoring performance to continue to improve results,” the state audit says.

In 2012, 3.7 pounds of waste per person were produced a day in the county. That’s down to 3.3 pounds — and falling approximately in line with the county’s goal of 2.9 pounds per person by 2016, according to the state.

The reduction in waste has also saved money. About $1.5 million in net savings from the new waste management system will help the county coffers, the audit found.

How did they do it? The comptroller report lists a few different programs, particularly recycling programs that have diverted waste from the landfill.
Also highlighted was the “Food Scraps Recycling” program, which includes curbside pick-up for recycling, as well as the “Re-business” program, which helps local merchants recycle.

Stock image of a landfill in Canada.

Two other programs caught the state’s attention: The Household Hazardous Waste Management program, which “provides safe, environmentally sound and cost effective management” for homes, and the Old Landfills and Facilities program, which monitors local landfills.

As a result, Tompkins’ rate of waste (3.3 pounds per person) is much lower than the state average of 4.5 pounds per person, according to the audit.

“A total of 43,532 tons of waste was diverted during the period. This is the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 25,539 passenger vehicles or of the carbon dioxide emissions avoided by installing 33 wind turbines,” the audit says.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.