Old Waste, New Life
The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCCRA) was created in 1990 to manage all types of solid waste in Onondaga County. Today, OCCRA consists of projects to manage recycling initiaves, toxic waste disposal, waste to energy programs, and compost sites. The compost site at Amboy, N.Y., is the largest of its kind in the entire state. In 2016, the site took in over 13 tons of food waste and nearly 54,000 tons of yard and agricultural waste. Since 15% of Onondaga County’s waste is compostable, the facility is making major strides in reducing the county’s impact on the environment. The nutrient dense compost is created through a multi-step process. After the material is dropped off, is it shredded into an easily decomposable size. After shredding, it is mixed into a 3:1 ration of food waste to yard waste. The yard waste, the majority of the mix, is referred to as a bulking agent. Once mixed, the material is transferred into a curing bay. Curing bays are large concrete holding cells where soon-to-be compost is stored while being broken down by microorganisms released from the decomposing material. The compost must maintain a minimum temperature of 131° F according to the U.S. Compost Council, and this temperature is monitored by probes that are inserted into the piles. A computer constantly measures the internal temperatures, and a state of the art oxygenation system ass more or less oxygen to the piles. Traditional composting systems require the piles to be manually rotated in order to keep the microorganisms fueled with oxygen to keep break down of the materials going. OCCRA’s system however, allows the piles to stay oxygenated without the added energy expense of manually moving the bays. After the material sits in a curing bay for roughly 50 days, it is moved to a finishing pile where is will stay for 20 – 30 days. From there, it is sorted one more time. The final sorter removes any non-compostable scraps — like plastic — and also sorts the compost into quarter or half inch sizes. When the final sort is completed, the compost is ready for sale to the public. The nutrient dense is used as a soil additive for homes, parks and other community areas throughout Onondaga County. The site saw a 138% increase in food waste intake form 2015 to 2016, proving that composting on a large scale is starting to take a hold in the county. Thanks to OCCRA’s initiaves, central New York is on its way to being one of the leaders in green programs in the country.