Madison County embarks on pilot program to turn farm waste into fuel


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Jim Zecca may be best known in Central New York for being an outspoken member of Utica's Common Council, but it's his day job which is getting him a lot of attention this week.

Zecca has helped bring what is called the AG Plastic Collection Program to neighboring Madison County.

The West Utican is the Director of the Madison County Solid Waste Facility in Wampsville.

Zecca says one of the biggest problems he's seen for years at the solid waste facility he oversees, is what to do with the heavy agricultural plastic waste that comes from the hundreds of Madison County farmers.

A majority of the plastics that come in from farmers are the plastic covers that are used to protect the farmers' livestock feed.

Until now, Zecca says those heavy plastic covers have either been burned, in many cases illegally, or disposed of legally by putting them in the Madison County Landfill.

Now, Zecca has announced a public/private partnership with a company called JBI, Inc. out of Niagara Falls, NY.

JBI is an engineering firm which now is able to convert certain plastics into synthetic crude oil.

Zecca says giving the plastics to JBI to turn into fuel not only keeps the environment cleaner, but turns the plastics into something useable, and says he has even had talks with JBI Inc. officials about setting up a recycling facility in Madison County. He said, "The company can't make any promises. They are a startup company, but everything is leaning that way."

Zecca and other Madison County officials made the announcement of the partnership Friday morning at ABC Farms on New Boston Rd. in Canastota.

ABC Farms owner Rick Carrier says he can now drop off the plastic covers at the Madison County Solid Waste Facility for free, instead of putting them in a dumpster and paying by weight to dispose of them. He said, "This is going to add another step to it, but I think that you'll find most farms, farmers in general, are very environmentally sensitive, and if we had the options and opportunities to create a better environment, I think you'll see most farmers jump in it."

Carrier says the program will save him about a quarter of his disposal fees each month and adds. He said, "I'm really excited Madison County has jumped in the forefront of all this, they always have."

New York Farm Bureau Field Advisor John Wagner was also at Friday's press conference.

Wagner says he believes many farmers will jump onboard with this program, not only to save some money on their disposal fees, but to save the environment at the same time.

Besides that, Wagner says Madison County has made it easy for farmers to get involved in the pilot program,. Wagner said, "They set up three transfer station throughout the county, so they've made it extremely easy."

Right now Zecca says the county isn't making any money on the public/private partnership, but doesn't rule it out in the future. Zecca said, "At this point and time, we're not making revenue from the sale of the material, but that's how you develop markets, we couldn't give paper away 20 years ago, now we make money on it."

Zecca says all farms that agree to bring their AG plastic to the County Solid Waste Facility or any of the three transfer stations for collection, will receive a bright red lawn sign proclaiming their dedication to keeping this type of plastic from being burned or being put in the landfill.

Zecca expects to see a lot of the large red signs up in the coming weeks.

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