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Is ‘Ash for Trash’ the way to go?

Public opinion split on idea to import trash from Cortland County

Since 1995, every municipality in Onondaga County except the village and town of Skaneateles has been sending its trash to the waste-to-energy facility on Rock Cut Road in Jamesville. “Ash for Trash” could allow Cortland County to bring its trash to the plant as well.

Since 1995, every municipality in Onondaga County except the village and town of Skaneateles has been sending its trash to the waste-to-energy facility on Rock Cut Road in Jamesville. “Ash for Trash” could allow Cortland County to bring its trash to the plant as well. Allie Wenner

— For 20 years, the waste-to-energy facility on Rock Cut Road in Jamesville has been Onondaga County’s answer to waste management. However, starting in 2015, Cortland County may also have the opportunity to bring its trash to the site through a potential agreement called “Ash for Trash.”

“Ash for Trash” would allow Cortland County to bring its 25,000 tons of trash each year to the incinerator, and, in exchange, Onondaga County could deposit its 90,000 tons of ash, produced yearly by the incinerator, in Cortland County’s landfill.

This idea could boost the economy in both Cortland County, whose landfill has been losing money, and in Onondaga County, where the incinerator has also been losing money due to smaller amounts of garbage being put out each year, among other things, said Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency Public Information Officer Kristen Lawton. Less trash for the incinerator to burn equals less electricity generated.

OCRRA currently transports ash to High Acres Landfill in Rochester. Traveling to Cortland instead would cut the distance in half, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two million pounds. Lawton said additional greenhouse gases would be reduced as Cortland would no longer be disposing of trash in a landfill that generates methane gas. The net greenhouse gas impact of this proposal would be the equivalent of removing 17,300 passenger vehicles from the road each year.

According to OCRRA’s website, the incinerator lost about $6 million from 2009 to 2011, which has cut into the plant’s revenues. And additional trash from Cortland County would make the incinerator more appealing to Covanta Energy, whose contract with OCRRA is set to expire in 2015.

“If we don’t have the trash to fill the waste-to-energy facility, we don’t have the revenue to run our other operations; including all of our recycling programs, hazardous waste collections and free distribution of blue bins,” said Lawton. “The reason we can do that is because we have revenue from the facility, the tipping fees and the electricity that’s generated.”

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