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Partnership with state DEC brings SUNY-ESF students research to reality

NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos is joined by SUNY-ESF President Joanie Mahoney as well as students.
Scott Willis
NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos is joined by SUNY-ESF President Joanie Mahoney as well as students.

With Earth Day not far behind us, students at SUNY-ESF recently had the opportunity to discuss their environmental projects with top officials from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC has been a long-time partner with ESF, but its most recent collaboration along with Syracuse University created the Center for Sustainable Materials Management in 2020.

The a one-of-a-kind center is devoted to practices in waste reduction, composting, and more. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says it was inspiring to hear students’ ideas to address the state’s solid waste and recycling challenges.

“Large amounts of recyclables that used to go to China are now being rejected by China that we have to find a way to make materials more recyclable at the front end. That means using technologies to bring in new types of natural plastics and use all kinds of ways of recycling those things. Our students are finding the answers to these problems we all know are out there. Yet it takes a little bit of time, a little bit of research, and support from an aggressive faculty to solve them.”

Seggos says he envies the opportunities ESF students have to bring their research to reality in the field.

“I told them, I wish that I had a similar opportunity when I was in college 20 years ago, right? To have them in the position of to be able to pitch to a state official, ‘here’s the idea I’ve been working on that you helped to fund, and now you, the Commissioner, can take that idea and bring it further along and actually go solve a problem in the outside world.’ That to me is magic, and that’s exactly what this institution has been doing. We’re so proud to be solving it.”

He commended the ESF students for not just studying solutions theoretically, but for going out and creating solutions themselves. Seggos believes that with the help of the Center for Sustainable Materials Management and his department, students will have enough support on their research to inspire change.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Matt Wrigley comes from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and is pursuing his Broadcast and Digital Journalism degree at Newhouse. His goal is to be a beat writer for a Philadelphia sports team or a broadcaster for NBC/NBC Sports. This semester at WAER, he's looking forward to gaining confidence with interviews and improving his news writing.