Jefferson County sees unprecedented spike in recyclables

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 5:44 PM EST
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TOWN OF PAMELIA, New York (WWNY) - Inside a Jefferson County facility sits a mountain of cardboard alongside stacks of other recyclables. It’s a recent spike in materials unlike the staff has ever seen.

The cardboard pile climbs closer to the ceiling at the Jefferson County Recycling and Solid Waste Center. A new sight for the supervisor, a nearly 20-year veteran there.

“This last year, year and a half, I’ve never seen it quite like it is now,” said Kyle Rutigliano.

Rutigliano says it’s no coincidence the spike lines up with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s so many more people doing online shopping. I think more people are comfortable with it,” he said.

Waves of other materials have stacked up too. County Highway Superintendent Jim Lawrence says the rise in recyclables is reflected in the data.

“Sixty percent in the last four years and 15 percent just over the last year,” he said.

Rutigliano knows it’s a lot to process for a staff of about a dozen strong.

“It’s hard on the staff here,” he said.

At times they’ve had to call on highway employees to pitch in to process all the recyclables.

The county’s 2022 budget calls for a new employee in the hopes of fixing that.

“We just couldn’t handle it with the few employees we have now,” said Lawrence.

Jefferson County isn’t just seeing a spike in recyclables. Lawrence says solid waste is on the rise too.

“We’ve seen a 30 percent increase in the last four years there, and we’re seeing an 8 to 10 percent increase in the last year,” he said.

The facility’s new hire will help with solid waste as well as recyclables.

Rutigliano expects there will be a lot of work to do for a long time.

“This isn’t going away any time soon,” he said.

The hope is to bring a new employee on around the start of next year.

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