Madison County recycling czar retires

Published May 13, 2018 at 9:00am

Madison County’s Recycling Czar, James A. Zecca, is retiring after 30 amazing and remarkable years as Director of the Department of Solid Waste and Sanitation.

Zecca has taken a small, insignificant site and transformed it into an energy efficient facility. Madison County’s landfill is a paradigm for solid waste experts and those seeking to emulate the green initiatives in practice there.  

Director Zecca lives and breathes recycling. Since starting the first recycling program at SUNY Cobleskill in the 1970s against some tough opposition, he has never backed down from a challenge.

“Throughout my tenure at the Madison County Dept. of Solid Waste, I was fortunate to have a great group of people working shoulder to shoulder with me to turn a small rather insignificant landfill into a showplace for renewable energy,” said Director Zecca as he reflected on his years of service to Madison County and the numerous programs and services he and his team have provided for the residents of this rural community.

“Working together we -- Russ Hammond and his crew, Recycling Coordinator Sharon A. Driscoll, the office staff of Lynne Shephard, Cindi Shoener, Sarah Gaudin, and all those who came before in our office, the current and former staff at Barton and Loguidice engineering, Attorney Bill Buchan and his wife Sharon, ARC Manager Mike Bowe and former manager Ken Stone and all the others that are too numerous to mention -- accomplished great things here in Madison County.” 

Not only is the Madison County landfill celebrated in Central New York, its successes have reverberated around the globe. Scientists, news reporters and those involved in the solid waste industry from Australia, Ecuador, Russia and Sweden, along with visitors from across the United States, have toured the Buyea Road landfill site seeking information on renewable energy from Director Zecca.

Zecca became Head of the Madison County Dept. of Solid Waste and Sanitation in 1988. His efforts to pursue solar energy and gas-to-energy have put this tiny landfill on the international map.

Zecca is in the forefront of innovative “green” technology and has propelled the Madison County Landfill into the 21st century. His leadership and vision have put the Madison County Dept. of Solid Waste and Sanitation at the top of the leaderboard in New York State, across the country and throughout the world.

He was the Recycling Center supervisor in Wilton and then the Town of Milford Recycling and Bio-solids Composting Coordinator in New Hampshire in the late 80’s.

In the late ’80s, as Mayor of Oriskany Falls, he initiated the first mandatory curbside recycling program in Oneida County utilizing an old abandoned dairy building as the Recycling center.

In 2011 Madison County, was the first municipality in the nation to close its landfill with energy-generating solar technology. The landfill features Carlisle’s Spectro Power Cap Solar Cover system that provides superior environmental protection as a landfill closure system while also generating clean, renewable energy for the ARC Recycling Center.

Zecca was presented with the 2014 New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement during the 25th anniversary conference of NYSAR3 in Cooperstown.

Zecca’s latest efforts have been centered on establishing a plastics and tires-to-energy facility at the newly created Agriculture and Renewable Energy Park (a business park) on Buyea Road next to the landfill site. His wish was to establish a collection site for tires along with agricultural and rigid plastics that would be turned into synthetic gas or diesel fuel. One such facility would provide much needed jobs for the area and save the county thousands of dollars in energy costs.

Zecca has also been a long time board member of the NYS Solid Waste Management Association and a founding member of the New York State Association of Recycling (NYSAR).

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, left, presents Jim Zecca, director of the Madison County Department of Solid Waste, with an official certification from the Congressional Record of her speech before Congress in which she honored Zecca’s service. Zecca will retire May 31 after almost 30 years working to establish cutting edge recycling and alternative energy programs and managing the landfill for Madison County.