Department of Solid Waste Celebrates 30th anniversary of recycling

Madison County’s recycling program is turning 30. July 17, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of implementation of its recycling program two years before the statewide recycling mandate went into effect, which required municipalities to adopt local laws for the separation of recyclables from trash.

At the time, the county only accepted newspapers, corrugated cardboard, glass containers, HDPE and PET plastic containers, aluminum containers and tin-coated steel containers. Under this new recycling program, residents were asked to sort the recyclables into two categories: paper and containers.

Since then, the county has continued to expand the list of accepted recyclables as technology and markets developed. For instance, paper recycling has expanded to include junk mail, magazines, office paper and boxboard. The county continues to adjust the accepted list of materials to reflect current market standards and recyclability of materials.

The county’s Materials Recycling Facility collects the paper and container recyclables, utilizes a mix of technology and hand-sorting to process the materials and then bales them for the next stop in the recycling journey. The MRF is located at the Department of Solid Waste’s landfill site and diverts more than 4,000 tons of paper, glass and metal recyclables annually from going into the landfill. The ARC of Madison Cortland has overseen operations at the recycling center since its inception in 1990 under the guidance of the Department of Solid Waste.

In addition to the paper and containers recycling program, the county has worked to divert other materials from the landfill. These items include household hazardous waste, electronic waste, yard waste, scrap metal, textiles, tires, sharps, medications and more. The county collaborates with several local organizations to handle these materials and is constantly looking for new ways to rethink waste in Madison County.

Looking ahead to the next 30 years, Director of the Department of Solid Waste Amy Miller says she’d like to see the creation of other domestic recycling markets and legislation for extended producer responsibility, a policy approach where a producer’s responsibility extends to the disposal stage of a products life cycle.

“By creating better markets through a demand for recycled content and incorporating the idea of a product’s end-of-life disposal at the beginning of the manufacturing process, the recycling industry will ideally see an increase in recyclable materials,” Miller said. “Here in Madison County, we will continue to work with our recycling partnerships to meet industry standards and continue to research new opportunities to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill.”

Madison County continues to operate under the two-bin recycling system where paper and cardboard are sorted into one bin and plastic, metal and glass containers are sorted into another bin. To see the current list of accepted recyclables and to learn more about other special recycling programs, visit or the Facebook page for Madison County Solid Waste & Recycling.

By martha

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