A National Model for Sound Solid Waste Management: The Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority

By Jill Luther, NYSAC Program Administrator
Solid waste management is the process by which discarded material, also known as solid waste, is collected and properly disposed. Improper disposal of solid waste can create unsanitary conditions that can lead to environmental pollution. Sources of solid waste include residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial waste. Certain types of wastes that cause immediate danger to exposed individuals or environments are classified as hazardous. All non- hazardous solid waste from a community that requires collection and transport to a processing or disposal site is called refuse or municipal solid waste (MSW).
Responsible solid waste management presents complex technical challenges including a variety of administrative, economic, and social problems that must be managed and solved. The Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (Authority) is a model for how solid waste can be and should be managed in a green and environmentally responsible way. Preserving the environment through recovery and disposal is the Authority's mission.
The Authority was created on September 1, 1988 and serves both Oneida and Herkimer Counties. The Authority was created to address environmental problems associated with improper solid waste disposal, to develop new facilities and programs for waste reduction and recycling, and to address the lack of long-term disposal capacity for non-recyclable waste. The Authority has developed a regional, comprehensive, integrated system of facilities to serve all the residents, businesses, industries and institutions of the two counties.
This integrated system promotes reduction, maximizes recycling, and provides safe, economical disposal for non-recyclable waste. The Authority owns and operates a Recycling Center, Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, Green Waste Composting Facility, Regional Landfill, and three transfer stations. Services include recycling, backyard composting, providing public education, promoting waste reduction and reuse of materials, school “Go Green” initiatives, as well as full-scale electronics collection and sludge management.
Single-Stream and Electronics Recycling
The Authority operates a state-of-the-art single stream Recycling Center. The single stream processing system was constructed in 2011 and operation began in January 2012. This took the place of the Authority's previous dual stream processing system that was built in 1991.
Single-stream recycling allows all recyclable items (paper, plastic, metal and glass) to be mixed together, rather than being sorted into separate commodities for collection and processing. With single stream recycling, both the collection and processing systems are designed to handle commingled recyclables. After collection, recyclables are delivered to the Authority's single stream Recycling Center where they are processed and sorted for materials' marketing. Since opening, the Authority has processed over 877,014 tons of recyclable material.
As part of the household hazardous waste management program, the Authority began its computer recycling program in 2000, and in 2003 expanded the program to include other electronics. The program allows residents, institutions and businesses to deliver computer and electronic equipment to the Authority for recycling and proper disposal. The Authority accepts household hazardous waste and electronics at no charge from residents.
The Authority also operates a state-ofthe-art regional landfill which opened in October 2006. The landfill is permitted to accept only non-hazardous waste generated within Oneida and Herkimer Counties. The landfill is an important part of the environmental infrastructure that serves Oneida and Herkimer Counties and provides all waste generators with the highest level of environmental security, thereby guarding against significant liability for the longterm. The system allows the Authority to track waste from its source to disposal, providing users of the system with complete environmental indemnification.
The integrated system helps local industry eliminate the risk of environmental liability in a number of ways. To assure no hazardous waste reaches the landfill, all waste generated by industrial and manufacturing facilities must be pre-approved before acceptance for disposal. Independent stateapproved labs are employed to analyze samplings of waste on a regular basis.
Landfill Gas to Electricity Creates Green Energy
Again furthering the Authority's green mission, in 2008, the Authority Board of Directors authorized a study to determine the most beneficial use for the collected methane gas generated at its landfill.
The release of methane from landfills contributes to the generation of greenhouse gases. In 2010, the Authority implemented active landfill gas collection and control through the use of a blower skid and flare. The active landfill gas collection system collects the gas through a network of wells and pipes located in the landfill cells. This collection system puts the landfill under negative pressure, pulling gas to the generator a n d f l a r e , t h e r e b y avoiding emissions to the atmosphere.
This project began generating electricity in early 2012 with one engine. The facility expanded in 2013 with the installation
of one additional engine. With the second engine, the facility now generates enough renewable energy to power more than 3,300 homes each year. In 2015, the Authority installed 14 new gas collection wells, continuing to advance the active landfill gas collection system which brings the total number of vertical wells to 58 and horizontal wells to 15.
The Authority's landfill gas to electricity project represents a significant commitment by the Authority to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint by capturing methane from the landfill and converting it to green energy.
Managing the waste created in our community is everyone's responsibility. The Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority has proven that solid waste can be managed in way that is reasonable, convenient, green and most of all, evironmentally responsible. The Authority's comprehensive and integrated system of managing waste from implementing single-stream recycling, a stateof-the-art landfill, a gas to energy plant and turning greenhouse gas into renewable energy is the epi tome of what those specializing in the solid waste industry should strive for.