Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – According to OCRRA, food scraps make up about 15 percent of Onondaga County residents’ trash.
With that in mind, the agency has been working on taking waste and turning it into compost.
What began as a pilot program a few years ago is growing into a full-scale operation that’s a first of its kind in New York State.
Construction is well underway on what will be the agency’s largest project in approximately two decades – in all, it will cost $2.4 million.
The concrete building will be used to take in the food waste, where it will be mixed and sent to aeration bays.
"We're really focused on the commercial entities, the restaurants, the food stores, where we can get the large volumes out working with their haulers,” said OCRRA Recycling Operations Manager Greg Gelewski.
Places like Wegmans, Destiny USA, some area hospitals and Syracuse University are all behind the effort – saving money by diverting 60 to 70 percent of their trash, which is made up of food waste, according to OCRRA.
At the agency’s facility on Airport Road in the town of Camillus, it costs less to dump than at a landfill.
Gelewski says culinary staff members are being trained to separate out scraps just like people who recycle separate out paper and plastics.
To make the program more viable, OCRRA has learned how to greatly reduce a six to nine month process for making the compost it sells.
"That was regular food scraps in a garbage can 90 days ago. We've mixed it with yard waste from our community, put it on aeration, let it mature, monitored it, measured it, tested it and there it is screened and ready for you,” Gelewski said.
The green roof on top of the Onondaga County Convention Center is just one of the places where the compost from the facility ends up. It is also transported to fields at West Point and even the green roof on top of the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.
“I could say yes, it is a feather in our cap, but it's developing those markets, developing that product and making compost really a household name, showing how good we are here in Syracuse, New York,” Gelewski said.
Once the project is complete, they expect more clients and greater advances in turning everyday waste into something consumers will want, while helping to protect the environment.
OCRRA is discussing options with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Crouse Hospital, among other healthcare facilities, about participating in the food-waste composting program.
The Amboy facility has also hosted interested officials from around the world.