Recycling Proposal An Amended Version Of Existing St. Lawrence County Law

13 May 2016

A proposed law that would require St. Lawrence County residents to dispose of garbage in clear or translucent plastic bags is an amended version of a 1997 law that hasn’t been consistently enforced.

The existing law was approved by county lawmakers 19 years ago and also requires that all plastic bags delivered to county facilities “shall be delivered in clear or translucent plastic garbage type bags.”

County Recycling Coordinator Larry R. Legault said the clear plastic bag portion of the county’s solid waste law was not enforced when he took over as solid waste director last year.

“I’m not sure about enforcement,” he said. “There is already a local law that requires clear bags, but it kind of faded out.”

He advocates a proposed new law that changes the type of penalties imposed upon haulers and individuals who violate the law.

County Attorney Stephen D. Button said the penalties faced by haulers or individuals who violate the law are the main difference between the proposed new law and the existing one.

The new regulation has not yet been introduced on the floor of the county Legislature, but it’s supported by the board’s Solid Waste Committee and Mr. Legault.

The main goal is to increase the county’s 14 percent recycling rate and reduce the amount of mixed solid waste heading to the tri-county Rodman landfill operated by the Development Authority of the North Country.

“The new law removes financial penalties, but enhances the ability to suspend the hauler from utilizing the facilities,” Mr. Button said.

Under the existing law, first-time violators face up to a $250 fine for their first violation, between $250 and $500 for their second violation, between $500 and $1,000 for a third violation and for subsequent violations.

Under the proposed law, penalties focus on administrative sanctions rather than financial penalties.

It allows the county’s Solid Waste Department to “suspend, condition or revoke any commercial waste permit” if the permit holder violates any provisions of the law. A written notice of violation must first be served on the permit holder. Violators can also request a hearing.

The department can also impose penalties and/or refuse service to other waste generators.

Jan M. Oatman, DANC’S regional recycling coordinator, said the proposed new law for St. Lawrence County is a common law that DANC created as part of a regional solid waste management plan involving St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties.

“We came up with a common local law so that there would be consistency in the three counties,” Ms. Oatman said.

The clear plastic bag provision was included to provide an incentive for people to separate their recyclables from their mixed waste.

For more than two decades, state law has required that individuals and businesses recycle and that local governments adopt their own recycling laws. However, enforcement has been inconsistent.

“Recycling has been required for a long time. As we all know, it hasn’t been enforced to its fullest capacity,” Ms. Oatman said.

In 2014, the Jefferson County Legislature approved the law, but removed the clear plastic bag and flow control provisions. Lewis County agreed to the law as written, including the clear plastic bag requirement.

Ms. Oatman said she believes the clear plastic bag rule has proven effective at boosting recycling.

Since the village of Massena started enforcing its clear plastic bag law, recycling in the community has increased by 38 percent, while recycling has already increased by 30 percent in Lewis County, she said.


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