To combat greenhouse-gas emissions, New York state is aiming to severely reduce the amount of waste generated within its borders by 2050. Its vision for this is laid out in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft Solid Waste Management Plan, which emerged from its public comment period at the end of June. According to the draft, waste accounts for 12 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions, making it the fourth largest sector, behind buildings at 32 percent, transportation at 28 percent, and electricity at 13 percent but ahead of industry at 9 percent.

In 2018, individual New Yorkers sent an average of more than four pounds of waste per day to disposal facilities, or three-quarters of a ton per year, the plan says. The goal is to reduce per capita disposal to just 0.72 pounds within the next 27 years. The draft plan says that, to achieve this, the state will need to devise a “circular economy,” where waste is not “wasted” through disposal in landfills or other facilities, but recycled and prioritized over limited natural resources.

It’s a tall order given the increasing inclination toward “convenience culture,” which values single-use or short-use products — such as take-out food or fast fashion — in pursuit of a lifestyle that’s more individually convenient. But the state says it’s a necessary challenge given the existential threat of climate change. “[The plan] is bold and should be bold if New York State is to achieve the transformational changes that are needed to address the global concerns today,” the draft states. “Small improvements are no longer sufficient to make the strides necessary to protect the environment.”

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Author: The Altamont Enterprise Regional
Image: Michael Koff,
The Altamont Enterprise Regional