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Mar 11

What is Environmental Sustainability?

Posted on March 11, 2019 at 10:35 AM by Regina Connelly

The term sustainability as it applies to solid waste management is somewhat of a nouveau term so much so that I am frequently asked about what it really means.  A definition by Herman Daly, pioneer of environmental sustainability may shed some light:

Environmental sustainability is the rates of renewable resource
harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion
that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely
then they are not sustainable.

For Ontario County, the efforts of the Department of Sustainability & Solid Waste Management are in alignment with Mr. Daly’s definition.  Working with our citizens, businesses, schools, and other organizations, we are guiding best practice solutions in solid waste management – all to “sustain” our beautiful community and abundant natural resources.

A Department priority involves oversight of county landfill operations. Here our focus is to ensure that all landfill activities meet our stringent standards, and that the landfill is in compliance with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and federal regulations.

We know the landfill will not be operational indefinitely. In fact, under the current landfill agreement established by Ontario County leaders over a decade ago, disposal at the landfill is scheduled to expire in 2028.  This fast approaching deadline emphasizes the need for all of us to do our best to practice the essential 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and for our continued exploration of creative alternatives to help reduce our waste stream – and landfill use. 

One such alternative being explored looks to prevent an estimated 10,000 tons of organic material from entering the landfill over a 12-month period.  Ontario County’s landfill operator, Casella Waste Systems, is currently seeking a permit from NYSDEC to pilot test use of a depackaging machine – which removes organic food materials from cans, wrappers, and jars. The extracted organic material will be transported and processed for energy through an anaerobic digester, and the recoverable packaging - clean cans, paper, and plastics will be recycled.  

We’ll keep you posted on the status of this initiative – and others so you can stay informed on our efforts for a sustainable Ontario County!

All the best,
Carla Jordan

Director – OC Dept. of Sustainability & Solid Waste Mgmt.