New Paltz was named by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the 13 nationwide communities to be part of their Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program.
“Sustainable materials management is a cornerstone of any sustainability program,” Kimiko Link, environmental scientist at United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 2, said. “A SMM approach, combined with a sustainable energy, sustainable food and sustainable water approach will help preserve our precious natural resources, improve health, strengthen our economy and build resilience for the future.”
The SMM program is aiming to serve human needs by using and reusing resources most productively and sustainably from extraction to disposal. The SMM approach seeks to minimize the amount of materials involved and all associated environmental impacts, as well as account for economic efficiency and social considerations, Link said.
In order to promote nationwide awareness and change, one municipality per EPA region was chosen to participate in the program. New Paltz was recruited as the New York community from USEPA Region two to be a part of the program, Link said.
Link said New Paltz’ interest in both the SMM program and the partnership made the town a good choice. She said the partnership program was intended to reflect a variety of demographics. The New Paltz community’s mix of village, suburban and rural perspectives, agricultural and college influences, proximity to urban centers, access to markets and varied disposal options fits the program’s niche.
Organizations such as the SUNY New Paltz Recycling Club and the New Paltz Recycling Center will be collaborating with the EPA to reach the goal of zero waste through the SMM program.
Kelly Drummond, president of the Recycling Club, said they will be involved with the initiatives taking place on the SUNY New Paltz campus. Drummond said some of the events the club has already hosted, such as awareness events and the RecycleMania program, promote recycling on campus and educate students about sustainability.
“Having people know their resources will probably be the most difficult,” Drummond said. “There are so many different resources out there that are just not really known. Once people know what recourses are out there they will be willing to participate.”
The New Paltz Recycling Center will also assist the EPA in a variety of ways including technical support and peer-to-peer networking, Link said.
“New Paltz Recycling Center will be the “home base” for the Reduction, Diversion and Reuse part of the Zero Waste Initiative,” Recycling Coordinator Laura Petit said. “We have hosted school and scout tours of the facility, offer internships and training opportunities, and have low cost materials on site that have been diverted from the waste stream (environmental) and help socially and economically to reduce expenses for arts, crafts, home improvements, etc.”
Link said the EPA is hopeful this program will inform the community about the effects and costs of current approaches to materials management and additional options available.
The EPA has extended the SMM program to other communities and individuals who are not directly involved by developing sustainable-type challenges in which people can demonstrate how the U.S. can move toward a greener future. The challenges include the Federal Green Challenge, the Food Recovery Challenge and the Electronics Challenge.
“The sustainability phenomenon has rippled throughout the community through public support and information that the EPA brought in through networking, workshops and the creation of programs (real programs, not just meetings and talk),” Petit said. “There will be a food waste program, backyard composting initiative, more aggressive recycling and compliance efforts, and hands on inspecting of what is being thrown out versus what should have been recycled or diverted.”