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Summary of Current Solid Waste Management Practices for the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation

A person living on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation on the average creates 2.5 pounds of municipal solid wastes per day. This means that a person living on the Reservation generates approximately 913 pounds, or 0.5 ton, of municipal solid wastes in a year. Multiplying this number by the estimated number of people living on the Reservation in 1998 shows that approximately 2400 tons of municipal solid wastes were created on the Reservation.

Where did all this municipal solid wastes go after it was created? Businesses and households on the Reservation make their own arrangements with non-tribal haulers for collection of their municipal solid wastes. Previous studies conducted by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) Environment Division have shown that this arrangement is not the best and approximately half of the municipal solid wastes (1200 tons per year) gets burned or buried on the Reservation by people generating the municipal solid wastes. The other half of the materials are picked up by the non-tribal haulers and transported off the Reservation.

The SRMT recognizes that if a change is not made in the way that municipal solid wastes are managed the current approach, reliance on outside haulers, combined with the projected 20 year municipal solid waste generation rate will lead to: an increase in open dumping and burning, thereby increasing health and environmental risks to the Reservation; and create economic hardship for the majority of the people who live with very low to low incomes. This has led the SRMT to develop an all-encompassing municipal solid waste management program which emphasizes the use of 3 Rs programs followed by proper disposal methods.

Three R Programs

Implementing 3Rs programs (waste reduction, reuse, recycling) decreases the amount of municipal solid wastes that needs disposing, reduces the cost of disposal, and minimizes the negative environmental impacts associated with disposal.

Waste reduction is the practice of creating less municipal solid waste or decreasing the toxicity of the municipal solid waste which needs disposing. Creating less waste means you don't have to worry about how to get rid of it. Waste reduction is generally accomplished by changing your personal behavior. For example, Kwis & Tiio show that changing your buying habits reduces the amount of wastes. Reuse is the process of using a certain material over again for the same purpose for which is was originally designed, or utilizing it for a different purpose. Recycling is where used materials are collected and utilized in the manufacturing of new materials, thereby saving on the quantity of virgin materials required to make these new products.

Solid Waste Management Tip Sheets

Managing your municipal solid wastes using the 3Rs is quite simple and it requires that you take personal responsibility in making decisions about how to handle the wastes. Kwis and Tiio are here to help you in making these choices for wise solid waste management through the use of seven tip sheets. These tip sheets contain information about some of the more common waste management choices that you can make in implementing your 3Rs program. Contact the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Environmental Office if you have questions or need help. Our phone number is: 518-358-5937.

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 1 - Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle General Information


Did you know?

On the average, packaging accounts for 13% of food costs and 50% of garbage costs. Therefore, the average family pays $500.00 a year just for packaging.
Selective shopping to avoid disposable containers can remove 10 - 20% from household garbage costs.

What can you do?

Buy items in bulk or buy the largest container you can use.
Limit or stop the use of disposable items.
Buy products packaged in reusable, refillable, or recyclable containers.
Buy products with the least amount of packaging.
Buy products that last.
Buy recycled products.
Buy milk, water, beer and soda in refillable beverage containers instead of throwaways.
Use cloth towels, cloth diapers, and sponges.
Use reusable plates and utensils.
Buy reusable lunch boxes and reclosable sandwich containers.
Buy refillable flashlights, razors, and cigarette lighters.
Borrow or rent lawnmowers, tools and other items that you rarely use.
Share newspapers, magazines, and books with friends and neighbors.
Maintain and repair items you own.


Did you know?

About 70% of all metal is used just once and then discarded.
The average household throws away 1,800 plastic items, 13,000 individual paper items, 500 aluminum cans and 500 glass bottles yearly.

What can you do?

Reuse plastic produce bags, paper sacks, plastic and glass containers
Reuse writing paper, envelopes, and junk mail as scrap paper
Reuse containers for shopping and storage
Reuse plastic knives, forks, spoons, and dishes
Shop at yard sales and second hand stores
Donate or sell old clothes, toys, furniture and bikes to second hand shops
Fix items which need minor repairs
Buy retreaded tires
Buy a reusable coffee filter
Reuse old curtains, draperies, sheets, and bedspreads as rags for painting or cleaning, or as dust covers
Reuse aluminum pie plates, food wrappings and plastic containers


Did you know?

Each year Americans throw away about 60 billion cans, 28 billion bottles, 4 million tons of plastic, 40 million tons of paper, 100 million tires and 3 million cars
It will only take you an average of two minutes a day to recycle glass, tin cans, aluminum cans, newspapers, mixed waste paper and cardboard

What can you do?

Buy products made from recycled materials
Set up a home recycling center in your home, like the kitchen or garage
Avoid packaging that bonds two or more materials together such as plastic and aluminum

(Adapted from: Waste Prevention Tool Kit For Local Governments-CWMI)

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 2 - Cloth or Disposable Diapers: The Consumer's Choice

What are disposable & cloth diapers made of?

Most disposable diapers are made with an outer layer of plastic (polypropylene) with a liner of an absorbent material made of wood pulp fiber and absorbent chemical gels. Cloth diapers are made out 100% cotton.

How do diapers impact the garbage problems?

Using cloth diapers instead of disposables is an effective way for consumers to reduce the amount of waste they generate.

What percentage of garbage in the Reservation is attributable to disposable diapers?

These percentages have not been calculated for the Reservation. However in NYS, disposable diapers comprise approximately 2% of all municipal solid wastes and 3.5% to 4.5% of household solid waste by weight. No other single consumer product-with the exception of newspapers and beverage and food containers-contributes so much to our solid waste.

Are disposable diapers a problem in our landfills?

Yes. Disposable diapers last for many decades in a landfill. Some experts claim they could take up to 500 years to decompose. The plastic outer layer makes natural decomposition particularly difficult, especially in landfills. In contrast, cloth diapers are reused many times before being discarded or recycled into rags.

How many diapers does an average child use in a week?

The average child uses 60 diapers per week. Newborns use approximately 80 diapers per week. By the time one baby is toilet trained, he or she has used approximately 8,000 - 10,000 diapers.

Which diapering alternative is the least expensive-cloth or disposables?

The answer to this question depends on your method. Clearly, the home washing of cloth diapers is the least expensive diapering alternative. In cost per diaper, cloth diaper service is usually less expensive than disposables. However, some parents choose to double, or even triple diaper their babies to get the needed absorbency which may increase the cost of cloth diapers.

What about biodegradable disposable diapers? Are they better to use than regular disposables?

No. "Biodegradable" diapers use plastics that are mixed with corn starch which are supposed to break down when exposed to sunlight and oxygen. However, these elements are not present in landfills. In addition, the volume of waste when using biodegradable diapers remains the same as non-biodegradable disposables. Consumers are being told that biodegradable diapers are good for the environment, but they really don't help our solid waste problem.

(Adapted from: Waste Prevention Tool Kit For Local Government-Cornell Waste Management Institute)

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 3 - If You Give a Hoot, Give Junk Mail the Boot

Did you know?

On the average, each American household receives an 1.5 trees' worth of bulk mail advertisements, commonly known as junk mail. Almost half of junk mail is tossed in the garbage unopened. The toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the ink become airborne when incinerated and leach into the groundwater from landfills. Considering that a ton of paper takes 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and more energy per ton than glass or steel to produce, the savings are substantial when YOU control the flood of unwanted mail that's targeted at you.

What can you do?

Request that your name be taking off mailing lists. To do a thorough job of eliminating most or your junk mail, start by notifying the Direct Marketing Association to take your name of all their national mailing lists. For each household member who wants to be taken off, neatly write:

Complete Name
Initial Variations
Common Mispellings found on mailing labels
Complete address
Send it to:
Mail Preference Service Direct Marketing Association
11 West 42nd Street,
PO Box 3861 New York, NY 10163-3861

Be patient because it takes 4 to 6 months to stop receiving national non-profit mailings and commercial sweepstakes, catalogs and magazine ads unless you are a current subscriber or shopper.

Directly notify senders by sending reply cards to them or call them on their toll-free number. Each and every time you give your name and address, make a donation or a purchase, you could be added to a new mailing list, so keep making your wish to stay off mailing lists known. All the junk mail that you're not sending back can be recycled in a mixed paper bin.

(Adapted from: Waste Prevention Tool Kit for Local Governments-Cornell Waste Management Institute)

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 4 - The Oil You Use Today May be Oil You Recycled Yesterday

Did you know?

1.3 billion gallons of used oil are generated annually in the United States, but only 777 million gallons enter the waste oil management system
61% of do-it-yourself mechanics dump approximately 11 million gallons of used oil into the environment (the same amount spilled by Exxon Valdez)
Recycled oil has the same heat value as virgin oil.
Re-refining oil takes about 1/3 the energy of refining crude oil.
One gallon of used oil
can be refined into 2.5 quarts of high quality oil
Oil doesn't wear out, it just gets dirty
Dumping used motor oil on the ground reduces soil productivity, and pollutes ground water, lakes and streams (one gallon of used oil can ruin 250,000 gallons of fresh drinking water)
Service stations in New York annually selling at least 500 gallons of oil and retailers annually selling at least 1,000 gallons of oil must accept, free of charge, up to five gallons of used oil per person per day.

What can you do?
If you change your own oil, properly collect the used oil in a clean leakproof container-plastic milk jugs work well
Don't mix oil with anything else (paint, gasoline, solvents, antifreeze, etc). Such mixtures are hazardous and make recycling difficult
Drain your used oil filter of any oil. Use a sharp tool to puncture a hole in the dome end of the filter or through the antidrain back valve located on the flat end of it. Place the flat end of the punctured filter on the used oil collection container and drain as much used oil as possible out of the filter, usually letting it set for 12 hours at 60oF is sufficient. Take drained oil filter to service station to see if they will collect it for recycling. They are not required to take filters, but they may take it anyways
If you have large drums of used oil, contact NOCO @ 1-800-899-6626. They will pick it up for a small fee.

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 5 - Household Hazardous Wastes - Steps to Safe Management

Did you Know?

Household hazardous wastes may be found in products including paints, cleaners, stains & varnishes, car batteries, motor oil, and pesticides
Americans generate 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste per year
The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of household hazardous waste in the basement, garage, and storage closets
Improperly disposing of household hazardous waste down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or putting them in the trash may: cause physical injury to sanitation workers; contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems; present hazards to children and pets; and contaminate drinking water supplies

What can you do?

Use nonhazardous or less hazardous products to accomplish the task at hand.
Become educated about products containing hazardous components and learn about alternative products that are less hazardous
If you need to use products with hazardous components, use only the amount needed. Leftover materials can be shared with neighbors or donated to a business, charity, or government agency, or given to a hazardous waste collection program. Excess pesticide might be offered to a greenhouse or garden center. Local arts and crafts people may have use for your surplus paint
Use and store household hazardous products in their original containers with labels intact. Store away from food and never put a household hazardous product in a container for storing food
Never mix hazardous waste with other products. Many products are incompatible and when mixed, may react, ignite, or explode
Follow any instructions for disposal and use provided on the label
Take household hazardous waste to a local collection program, if available

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 6 - Composting is a Natural Process That is Easy & Fun
So Don't Delay

Benefits of Composting

Composting is a natural process, reduces the amount of household garbage that needs disposing, and creates a natural fertilizer.

Wastes to include in composting

All yard wastes including grass clippings and leaves
Food wastes including: vegetables & fruits; coffee grounds & filters; tea bags; and egg shells
Do not include the following wastes: meat & fish scraps; bones; dairy products; peanut butter; cooking oils; mayonnaise; pasta & bread; and animal wastes

How to make a pile

Layering of materials and then mixing them is the best approach. Start by placing a layer of wood chips. Place a layer of food wastes followed by a layer of yard wastes and then mix the two layers. Add enough water so that when you squeeze a fistful of the compost you get a couple drops of water. Compost should be as wet as a squeezed out sponge.

Maintaining the pile

How you maintain your pile is a factor of how fast you want a finished product. To have a finished product in less than 30 days, turn your pile and monitor the piles moisture levels daily. If you are not in a hurry for the finished product, turn the pile and check its moisture levels once per week.

What to do with the finished product (humus)

Add humus to soil, gardens and plants. Humus makes a great fertilizer.

Kwis & Tiio Tip Sheet 7 - Health & Environmental Problems Associated with Open Dumping & Burning

Did you Know?

Approximately half of the solid waste created on the Reservation gets burned or dumped on the Reservation by people living on the Reservation
Some of the Reservation dumps are located withing ten feet of people's homes
People attempt to burn materials which are not burnable creating air pollution problems for themselves and neighbors
Open dumps pose significant health and environmental risks to the Reservation: children are vulnerable to physical (protruding nails or sharp edges) and chemical (harmful fluids or dust) hazards found in open dumps; rodents, insects, and other vermin attracted to open dumps pose health risks; open dumps may catch fire creating a fire hazards to nearby buildings; open dumps can impact drainage of runoff, making areas more susceptible to flooding; and ground water and drinking water can become contaminated from open dumps
Dioxin (a known cancer causing substance) emissions from open burning of garbage in one day by four families could equal the emissions from a municipal solid waste incinerator burning 200 tons per day. Dioxins suppress the immune system, disrupt hormonal balances. Other air emissions from burning garbage can cause leukemia, asthma, and lung damage

What can you do?

Reduce, reuse, and recycle prior to properly disposing of your waste materials
Educate your family, neighbors and friends about the negative health and environmental impacts associated with open dumping and burning. Ask them not to do it
Properly dispose of your wastes in an EPA approved facility