Tompkins County in central New York has an ambitious waste diversion goal and a lot of rural property to serve. So county officials knew they had to go a little country to achieve their diversion plan.
“We’ve identified for quite a while that the multifamily dwellings and mobile home parks don’t have nearly the support for recycling programs you see with residential areas,” says Kat McCarthy, waste reduction and recycling specialist with Tompkins County Solid Waste. “We recognize the unique challenges in those areas. We wanted to reach out to communities that aren’t getting the same information we’re putting out there.”
McCarthy is based in Ithaca, home to Cornell University and the only sizeable city in the county. Tompkins County has a diversion goal of 75 percent by 2015 and is at about 60 percent now.
The county had a program partnering with businesses on green efforts, which became a starting point for working with apartment complexes and mobile home parks. But officials thought a more direct, hands-on approach would achieve better results. The county got a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to start four pilot programs.
County officials met with a property manager and a resident contact at the sites (three mobile home parks and one apartment complex), McCarthy says. They gathered information on current waste generation at the sites and identified current and potential problems. The county provides curbside recycling for residents with Casella Waste Systems Inc., so they enlisted the company’s help as well to improve recycling rates. County officials created brochures tailored for each location, attended events at the locations such as Dumpster Days at the mobile home parks and provided free recycling bins.
“We were trying to create something in the community [connected] with something that was already happening,” McCarthy says.
To develop composting programs, Tompkins County worked with the cooperative extension compost program and Trumansburg, N.Y.-based Cayuga Compost, a local commercial composter that does pickup service with customers and collection tote bins.
Chip Ray is president of Jim Ray Homes, mobile home parks that host two of the pilot locations for composting and recycling in Newfield. Valley Manor has 188 residents and Shelter Valley 66. He wasn’t looking to start a program. “It has worked out good from my perspective,” he says. “It’s a way for my residents to save money.” (The county has a pay-as-you-throw program based on weight.) “The less spaghetti and eggshells in there the more other stuff you can put in for free.”