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Where Jefferson County Recycles

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As the state Department of Environmental Conservation pushes its regions to reduce the amount of recyclable material in the waste stream, the Jefferson County Transfer Station, which handles all the county’s recyclables, may play an increasingly important role in the years to come.

The station on Route 12 in Pamelia, in existence since 1990, has found a way to turn trash into treasure by selling thousands of tons of corrugated cardboard, newspaper, tin and plastic every year.

The transfer station processed 5,134.36 tons of recyclable material in 2012.

The material is purchased by companies that manufacture everything from lawn furniture to automotive gaskets to carpeting, according to County Highway Supervisor James L. Lawrence, who oversees the transfer station.

There is no charge to residents to bring recyclables to the facility.

The transfer station operates as an “enterprise fund,” a business within a government.

The sale of recyclable material covers more than 25 percent of the costs of running the transfer station, Mr. Lawrence said.

The other 75 percent is covered by “tipping fees” paid by commercial haulers who bring solid waste to the facility, which the county then trucks down to the Development Authority of the North Country landfill in Rodman.

While the DANC landfill handles all the municipal solid waste generated by its three charter counties — Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence — each county is responsible for handling its own recycling.

As counties try to find ways to reduce the amount of recyclables in the waste stream, the advantages and disadvantages of single-stream, dual-stream and source separation recycling will be weighed.

“Single-stream” means that materials are sorted at an automated recycling facility. St. Lawrence County recently enacted this policy. Casella Resource Solutions, a private company, handles its recycling.

Lewis County uses “dual stream” recycling. Under this system, glass, plastic and aluminum are pre-sorted from paper and cardboard. Theses materials are sorted again at the transfer station.

And Jefferson County uses source-separation, which means that all materials must be separated before they are turned in at the transfer station.

While some officials favor the ease of single-stream recycling, Mr. Lawrence and Solid Waste Maintenance Supervisor Joseph J. Gould argue that source separation keeps costs down, recycling free and tipping fees low at the transfer station.

“We’re one of the cheapest facilities around,” Mr. Lawrence said.

Those low fees, along with a spirit of innovation, makes the facility the ideal location for handling Jefferson County’s recyclables.

“We keep trying to figure out new things to do here,” Mr. Gould said.

The transfer station instituted a program to recycle “e-material” such as computers, monitors and television sets three years before the state mandated such programs and is working on a program to recycle uprooted trees, hay and manure into highway topsoil.

And those are not the only instances of innovation.

In the new $1.5 million solid waste storage shed, built to accommodate the increasing demand for the transfer station’s services, a mangy coyote watches over the facility’s windswept lot.

“We found the coyote in the garbage,” Mr. Gould said. “You’d be surprised how it keeps the seagulls away.”

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