Open house included experts providing guided tours of the local landfill and recycling facility

SENECA — Casella Waste Systems Inc. started out as a one-truck operation in Vermont in 1975 before opening the nation’s first recycling center in 1977. 

The company now operates facilities in more than 30 states nationwide, including the Ontario County landfill and recycling center in the town of Seneca, which was on display to all those interested in its operations during Saturday's open house.

“We try to do open houses at all of our facilities,” said John Casella, president and CEO of Casella Waste Systems Inc. “For those who haven’t had the opportunity to see what goes on at a recycling facility and a landfill, they can get first-hand experience to understand.” 

Earlier this year it was announced that the local landfill has the green light for an expansion that guarantees the facility’s survival until the county contract ends in 2028. As the years progress, so will the recycling function of the facility, according to Casella. 

Recycling has always been a major part of the waste management strategy, he added, pointing out that the recycling volume grows at approximately 10 percent per year. 

To handle the process was the development of the Zero-Sort Recycling machine — a massive material recovery facility, or MRF, where 260 tons of recyclable products are processed five times each day. The process starts with recyclable materials shipped to the facility mixed together. From there the MRF separates, processes and bales the materials that are shipped back out for reproduction. 

“More and more of the waste stream is being recycled, and I think we’re going to continue to see that into the future,” Casella said. “Technology is going to change, and there will be more innovation around screening and technology to handle recyclables.”

More companies have begun to focus on less multi-layer packing for products along with more recyclable material, he said.

“As new innovations happen from a recycling standpoint, we’ll add on to the recycling facility — we’ll add different equipment, we’ll add different technology — so over time, it’s our belief as a company that more and more of the waste stream is going to be recycled,” Casella said. 

Tom Donahue, who has lived in Geneva for 73 years, wanted to see first-hand the operations at the local landfill — particularly with criticisms of the facility rampant. 

“I’m impressed,” he said. “I mean, I hate landfills, but they are a necessary evil. You have to have them, and this is really impressive. I had no idea that it was as well run as what I’ve seen today.” 

He recalls the time when the massive plot currently taken up by the Ontario County landfill and recycling center was farmland.  

“People drive by and they take a smell and you (complain) about it, but unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast," Donahue said.

Tom Abraham's visit was for similar reasons.

“They take precautions to make sure they don’t pollute, but I don’t know,” said Abraham, 43, of Yates County. “It’s a controversial issue — the good versus the bad about one of these. But we need someplace to put our waste because we all create it.”