Ahead of Earth Day, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) is calling for action on legislation to modernize and strengthen local recycling, regulate harmful chemicals, and safeguard public health and the environment.

Central to NYSAC’s priorities is the reinstatement of paper products like direct mail and office paper into the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (PRRIA), S.4246-B (Harckham)/A.5322-B (Glick).

Originally part of the PRRIA, paper is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and municipal recycling costs, representing about 30% of the materials handled by recycling programs and 20-30% of landfill waste. Creating an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for both packaging and paper will provide meaningful relief to local governments and create a more sustainable future for recycling statewide.

“All across the state, local recycling programs are struggling to remain economically sustainable amid low prices for recycled material and increasing collection and processing costs,” said NYSAC President Daniel McCoy. “By including paper in the PRRIA, New York State can insulate counties and municipalities from unpredictable and often volatile commodity markets and ensure that the costs associated with recycling paper are borne by those who produce and profit from these materials, not local taxpayers.”

Additionally, counties support EPR for packaging and printed paper to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). By banning toxins in packaging, the PRRIA not only protects public health but also contributes to conservation efforts by decreasing the volume of hazardous materials entering our environment and waste streams.

“For too long, local governments and taxpayers have borne the burden of recycling an increasingly complex and costly array of packaging materials flooding the market while the brands who profit from using these materials are left off the hook,” said Ulster County Executive and Chair of the NYSAC Climate Action, Energy, and Environment Committee Jen Metzger. “The Extended Producer Responsibility Act will shift the end-of-life management responsibility back to producers and make packaging safer by prohibiting the use of chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to the environment and human health.”

Learn more about the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act.

In addition to EPR legislation, NYSAC is calling for action on bills to improve water infrastructure, foster renewable energy development, and protect New Yorkers from so-called forever chemicals:

  • S.4350-A (Hinchey) / A.6155 (Gunther) to create a consistent funding stream for local drinking water, stormwater, and sanitary sewer infrastructure projects.
  • S.1179 (Harckham)/A.7279 (Levenberg) to encourage renewable energy development by allowing local governments to advance solar energy projects above park parking lots without approval from the State Legislature. S.1179 (Harckham)/A.7279 (Levenberg) to encourage renewable energy development by allowing local governments to install solar canopies in the parking lots of municipal parks without approval from the State Legislature.
  • S.5648-A (Hoylman-Sigal)/A.3556-A (Zebrowski) to prohibit the sale of consumer products that contain intentionally added PFAS.

“It’s fitting that Earth Day falls during National County Government Month, a month in which we recognize the countless ways counties serve our communities,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “County governments perform a crucial role in protecting the environment and leading the transition to next generation sustainability programs at the local level.”