The City of Ithaca is taking another step to be more sustainable. Beginning Nov. 1, yard waste collectors will only collect waste that has been placed in biodegradable paper bags, reusable containers or wrapped in thin, malleable twigs. These changes will affect any students who have their yard waste collected off campus.
According to a news release from the city, “Yard waste regulations have been adjusted to save staff time and money, reduce the health impacts on city workers and meet other city goals including reducing greenhouse gas emission 20 percent from 2001 levels by 2016.”
Dan Spencer, supervisor of the sanitation department of the city, said the new regulations are the city’s first significant change to the collection program.
“This is actually our first shot at trying to streamline this down a little,” he said.
Spencer said future changes to the collection program could include a fee for collection and reduction in the frequency of collections or how many bags are allowed at each property. There is also the possibility that the collection program could be eliminated entirely.
City residents who do not comply with the new regulations could be subject to a special trash collection fee. Waste collections weighing more than 50 pounds or put in any kind of plastic bag will not be picked up.
Instead, collectors will tag the rejected material with a sticker requiring the waste be removed from the curb within 24 hours. If the waste is left, the resident will have to pay $20 plus the weight of the bags — $1 per pound — for the special collection.
While removal is free for residents, the city pays $37.50 per ton for disposal at Cayuga Compost. Trucks are used to haul the waste 20 miles to the compost facility and get about 4 miles to the gallon, Spencer said.
“So it’s quite a cost to the city,” he said.
Some residents, such as students living off campus, choose to take care of their own yard waste through on-site composting.
Junior Alex Cunningham said after researching composting techniques he discovered traditional composting was too costly, but a workshop introduced a cheaper alternative.
“We heard about a composting workshop at the Farmers Market, … and they explained really cheap, low maintenance ways to compost,” he said. “Right after that we went to the Agway and bought the two or three things we needed and set it up in our backyard and started composting.”
Adam Michaelides, project manager of compost education at Cornell Cooperative Extension, said on-site composting could help the city accomplish its goals for the new yard waste regulations.
“Composting is nature’s way of doing things,” he said. “It’s nature’s way of recycling.”