TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN — Dumpster rental company Chris Rizzo Trucking is looking for the Fulton County Board of Supervisors to give its seal of approval for a garbage and recycling sorting facility the business plans to build on a Rose Street Extension property near its Route 29A business.
Business co-owner Megan Rizzo made a presentation to the county’s Public Works Committee meeting Aug. 30. She told supervisors her business was forced to begin sorting garbage and recycling at its facility last winter using the company’s own excavator in order to cut costs and compete with larger corporate garbage haulers like Twin Bridges and County Waste. She said the company’s efforts did not go unnoticed.
“We were turned in three times to DEC,” she said.
Rizzo said state regulations, enforced by the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation [DEC], allow for “hand sorting” of garbage in dumpsters, but as soon as Chris Rizzo Trucking began using an excavator it was technically using “machinery” to sort the garbage and recycling, which could put them in violation of the law.
“DEC didn’t seem to have a problem with what we are doing, but we need approval,” she said. “We need to get approval through the county.”
Rizzo explained a combination of factors, including new rules at the Fulton County Landfill on Mud Road, forced her company to change the way it deals with garbage and recycling.
“During the winter, the landfill [put in] new rules where the drivers can’t get up and dig loads out,” she said. “This winter was the worst winter we’ve seen. None of our loads ever dethawed.”
Rizzo said about one third of the space inside the dumpsters her company was transporting to the landfill were frozen, and Fulton County charges $50 per dumpster for “dig-outs,” using the landfill’s excavators, some of which have “teeth” that damage her dumpsters, which currently cost $8,000 each.
She said attempting to dig-out frozen loads by hand was too difficult, and would have required the dumpsters to be heated up, which led to the machine-assisted process that runs afoul of state regulations.
“That’s a huge, huge, expense, landfill-wise, driver-wise, time-wise, everything — it doesn’t work for us as a company, and there’s nothing the landfill can do about it either, it’s the weather,” she said. “So, we had started taking these frozen loads back, and digging them out ourselves and separating things out the way that we should and putting it in a 30-yarder [dumpster], and we had approximately about eight small truck loads that we would put in a 50-yard container, and we would bring that up to the landfill.”
Rizzo explained that the frozen dig-outs illustrated the efficiency of sorting the garbage and recycling in-house before bringing it to the landfill.
“We saved ourselves eight trips to the landfill, eight trips across [Route] 67 with our trucks — because we know [Route] 67 gets beat by all of these garbage trucks — and it’s just, in our eyes, more feasible for everyone involved, not just us, but the landfill,” she said.
She said when Fulton County switched to “single-stream” recycling in 2017, it allowed residential users to mix together different types of recycling, but it didn’t allow commercial haulers to do the same thing, another reason why she wants to be able to sort the material.
“I was bringing it in altogether and that was a problem for the landfill,” she said. “They want just cardboard, clean, because they want to make money on it, and I get that, but I’m unable to do that with my trucks and drivers. I would have to do at my own facility. Then I could separate that out, bring up the loads the way they want them. Feasible for them, feasible for me.”
Fulton County Solid Waste Director David Rhodes has said Fulton County is poised to begin generating revenues from its recycling program in 2021 for the first time since 2017 thanks to the price of cardboard more than doubling from $75 per ton in July 2020 to $155 per ton in 2021.
Veteran trial attorney Richard Aulisi, who has returned to private practice after decades of serving as a New York state Supreme Court judge, also spoke to the Supervisors Public Works Committee on behalf of his client Chris Rizzo Trucking. He argued the county should approve Rizzo building a sorting recycling facility because it will help the county generate more revenue at the landfill.
“What we’re looking for is for the county to get on board and assist Chris Rizzo trucking in putting up a facility on its own property,” Aulisi said. “I’ve been in touch with the state [Environmental Conservation Police], and they don’t seem to have a problem with it, but they need your [approval] first to allow that kind of a project to go forward. Obviously, there are projects like that in other places, like I’ve said County Waste and Twin Bridges have those kinds of facilities.”
Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan, who chairs the Public Works Committee, told Rizzo and Aulisi he is uncertain what role the county can play in the process of obtaining approval for a garbage and recycling facility.
“Have you started the process of applying with DEC for that type of facility?” Fagan asked.
“We didn’t. We started doing it on our own during the winter, almost because it was kind of forced,” Megan Rizzo said. “We didn’t have a choice. I don’t know what other choice we would have, or else have 50 dumpsters frozen until spring.”
Fagan said he still didn’t understand what Chris Rizzo Trucking is asking of the county government.
“How would the county have to be first in line with that? DEC regulates us,” Fagan said.
“I am not sure, but that’s what we were told,” Megan Rizzo said.
Fagan said county officials will need to research the issue before taking any action.
“In my mind, if this is a DEC permit, that you’re going to need, I don’t recall us ever having to have input into a DEC permit,” he said.
“Mr. Chairman, if I may,” Aulisi interjected, “in my discussions with counsel for DEC, I was advised that we have to come here first, and whether it’s tacit approval, or some formal process you have to go through, he indicated this is the place we have to start.”
Fagan said Fulton County Solid Waste Director David Rhodes will be tasked with determining exactly what needs to be done for Chris Rizzo Trucking to obtain the permission it needs to sort garbage and recycling at the company’s Rose Wood Extension property.
On Monday, Megan Rizzo said, via a social media message, that she doesn’t know how much it may cost to build a recycling and garbage sorting facility of the type her company would like to operate, but she thinks with the county’s permission they could continue sorting the materials in the way that they were doing during the winter.
“It is in the primitive stages,” she said. “We have certified registered scales up. We have 50-yard containers … we brought the small containers back, 8-yard, 12-yard and 16-yard. We used our excavator and one laborer to empty the small dumpster and grab any items, such as appliances, tires, metal and cardboard. All metal can go to a recycling facility, as well as tires.”
She said she imagines building a complete garbage and recycling sorting facility will increase the size of her business.
“We just acquired [the Rose Wood Extension] property bordering our building already and intend to meet all DEC regulations to sort our own loads,” she said. “This should also create new jobs at our business.”