Composting a high priority in Monroe County's new climate plan 

Monroe County has been under pressure from residents and environmental professionals and activists to start a public composting program for some years..

Now, one could be within reach.

A committee convened by the County Legislature to develop a climate action plan has drafted one and among its top recommendations is for the county to evaluate its “processing capacity” for composting organic food waste. The draft requires approval by the Legislature.

The county does not operate an organic waste composting facility, but the issue of launching a composting program isn’t likely to go away. This year, a state law went into effect requiring most large food waste generators, such as grocery stores and restaurants, to compost their organic scraps.

RELATED: Composting is growing, but we're a long way from getting with the program

Overall, the action plan calls for the county to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. County Executive Adam Bello said there isn’t yet a timeframe for enacting the plan’s recommendations, but he indicated that he doesn’t plan to let it collect dust on a shelf.

"You can do all the planning in the world, but if you don't implement anything, then you didn't really do anything but spin your wheels,” Bello said. “So I want to put some time and thought in the best way to implement that, work with our partners in the Legislature, and for the first time ever Monroe County's going to do something here and take concrete actions to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and make an impact on the environment."

County legislators are expected to discuss the draft plan Monday during a scheduled meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The members could vote on whether to advance the plan for consideration by the full Legislature.

WATCH LIVE: Monroe County legislature YouTube channel

The draft, which focuses solely on county government operations, represents the first phase of the plan’s development. A second phase, which will focus on quantifying and cutting emissions community-wide, is in the works.

The odds that the draft will pass are good. It was developed by a bipartisan committee, created through bipartisan legislation that passed the County Legislature unanimously.

The plan doesn’t carry the force of law, nor does it require officials to do anything. Instead, it lays out steps that the county could take to chip away at its greenhouse gas emissions.

Matthew O’Connor, a former Pittsford Town Board member who was appointed by Legislature Republicans to the climate plan commission, referred to the document as “a high-level statement of priorities for the County with respect to operations for which the County is responsible.” O’Connor co-chairs the commission with Democratic Legislator Michael Yudelson.

The draft plan includes 62 specific recommendations for the county to consider, many of which are aimed at increasing the amount of renewable energy the county uses, reducing county government’s energy consumption, greening the county’s vehicle fleet, and reducing waste generated by county operations.

Those recommendations were scored based on their effectiveness in reducing emissions, as well as the timeframe in which they could be accomplished and the investment required to do so. O’Connor said that framework is key to the plan.

“The document is not an operational procedure or even a ‘how to’ manual, though operationalizing and implementing (the) recommendations is the next step,” O’Connor said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

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