Equal Time: Why we have a yellow bag system

02/04/2011 11:41 AM |

Since my name was mentioned in last week’s “Equal Time” column on trash collection and recycling, I feel compelled to mention a few things left out of the article.

First, the town’s waste management system was not set up to protect local business or give a windfall to plastic bag manufacturers. It was in response to federal and state laws passed in the 1980s to close groundwater-polluting open dumps.
In most states, including New York, those laws include requiring municipalities to have comprehensive plans ensuring the safe and legal disposal of waste generated within their borders. And those plans must include requiring source-separated recycling services to all residences. That’s whether or not they have curbside garbage pick-up service provided privately or by the town, and regardless of the destination of the waste.

The town must also demonstrate that its plan helps meet state waste reduction and recycling goals.

For Southold, after the Cutchogue landfill closed in October 1993 that meant shipping the waste out of state for disposal. Since the dump closure was not anticipated (a court decision gave only a few weeks’ notice), there were no tax revenues to cover the new costs, expected to be over $1 million a year. The town elected to go with a “pay-as-you-throw” (PAYT) fee system after getting public input at a series of hamlet meetings.

To address Mr. Young’s letter of last week, there actually were straw votes taken at these meetings. No one was happy having to pay anything, but the clear preference was for a user fee instead of taxes. And so the yellow bag program was born.  
Far from being a scheme to overcharge consumers and stifle competition as Mr. Fischer suggests, it tries to achieve just the opposite, which is greater individual control over one’s garbage costs and an incentive to save money by wasting less and recycling more. Any company is welcome to participate.

Mr. Fischer says he has “no problem” documenting the DEC-approved facilities he uses, yet when I called him he refused to name one. I am not aware of any facility on Long Island that effectively removes residential recyclables mixed with garbage for the price he claims. He then claimed to have “forgotten” his address when I offered to mail him a copy of the town code, and promptly hung up on me. That’s not the kind of treatment I would ever expect from a local carter.

My comment to him about tip fees on construction debris referred to the fact that the old facility was not set up to handle that waste stream. I told him of our new volume-based rate for carters, which did not interest him.

The yellow bag program has helped Southold reduce waste generation and increase recycling dramatically. That amounts to $400,000 in savings and revenue in 2010 and over $6 million since the program began in 1993.

As for what disposal rates “should be,” it’s true that the weak economy and low winter demand have resulted in outside trash collection facilities offering some low spot prices. But these are temporary and not offered for contract. I know because we’ve tried.

While there’s always room for improvement, it is important to remember that with its limited resources the town still provides an integrated, full-service waste management program to its residents and its fee structure reflects this.

This includes free hazardous waste disposal, year-round free disposal of leaves, free seasonal brush disposal, offering 500 pounds per person of free compost each year, safe and secure disposal of electronic waste and mercury bulbs, a robust recycling program, a free goods-exchange facility and other services.

While Mr. Fischer looks only for the cheapest, most immediate way to dispose of garbage, legal or otherwise, the town has a broader responsibility because we truly serve the entire community.

Mr. Bunchuck is Southold Town’s solid waste coordinator.



9 Comment

  • I am still waiting to here Mr Bunchuck identify where the towns solid waste goes ??? and why residences with small dumpsters are not required to separate

  • Good point JamesinMatt!

    I am still waiting for you (or anyone) to join me at your Town Board Meeting to ask the Board when information will be posted online on where our solid waste and recyclables go.

    James Bunchuck job is to operate the Southold Town Solid Waste Management District facility on Cox Lane in Cutchogue. And even there he is subject to directions of the Town Board. While he does share authority to post on southoldtown.northfork.net The contents of the Southold Town website are the responsibility of Lloyd Reisenberg, Network & Systems Administrator in the Data Processing Office and of your Town Board.

    Your questions about why residences with small dumpsters are not required to separate should be directed to Damon Rallis, Southold Code Enforcement Officer or to your Town Board.

  • I’ve had enough! Another self-serving local “official” threatening Mr. Fischer with a Town Code that does not exist! I would have hung up on him, too! Feel free to read what it does say. Just Google Southold Town Code. It’s on the official town site, section 233. No where in that section is there any restrictions put on a carter who chooses to transport Southold’s garbage out of town. Maybe Mr. Bunchuck should read it. The code is written to govern the handling of garbage into the Southold Town Transfer Station. How do you think the town gets rid of it? Its sorted and shipped out, the same as Mr. Fischer claims he’s doing. Prove he’s not. Don’t threaten him with non-existant town codes. We deserve much better from our Town Fathers. Misrepresenting Town Code is disgusting. This has got to stop!

  • Oh,

    And Mr. Bunchuck, Thank you for refreshing my memory and reminding me of the straw votes that brought us this whole yellow bag nonsense to begin with. What a sham!!!!

  • I agree with Randy this fool Bunchunk is a paper tiger, don’t threaten me with a fine. This is my property and I WILL DO AS I PLEASE WITH MY GARBAGE! GOT IT! GOOD! Besides shouldn’t you be doing more important things like holding up someones C.of O because the built a shed in there yard. Enough already!

  • Dear Mr. Bunchuck,

    I need to apologize slightly for my anger in yesterday’s response. I don’t know you personally. “Self-serving” may have been a little harsh but it does appear on the surface of things that you would have a vested interest in the Yellow Bag program. Correct me, if I’m wrong, but I would guess that it goes a long way in justifying your position with the town and perhaps even paying your paycheck. Without a Transfer Station, we don’t exactly need you , now do we? And, if Go-Green is really doing what they say they are doing, do we really need the Transfer Station at all?

    My anger is stemming from the misrepresentation of the town code by our officials. From Mr. Russell, to Mr. Finnegan , and now to you. I have read that code over and over and over again. There is nothing in it that bars Go-Green from carting our garbage out of town to another authorized facility. Trying to use it as some form of weapon against him speaks of a propaganda war and a totalitarian state in which laws are twisted to suit the needs and the whims of those in power. I remind you that this is “America”.

    As I have already said, “ I am not now, nor have I ever been a proponent of the Yellow Bag program” Having now lived with it for nearly 20 years, no discussion of it’s merits, if there are any, will likely make any dent in changing my view. There are better and more efficient ways to recycle garbage. Go-Green may have found one..

    That said, Mr. Fischer may indeed be in violation of some obscure “State” Mandate that requires him to pick up household garbage separate from recyclables on different days. I’m not sure where that is but, on the surface, if that’s the case, it seems pretty silly. I haven’t found it yet, but “source separated” to me means that before garbage can enter a landfill it must first be separated from it’s recyclables. Mr. Fischer says he is doing just that. For that matter, so do you. That’s good. It’s what I’m hiring him for. Until proven wrong, which would be a clear violation, I am willing to take him at his word. He has been doing business on Long Island for quite some time and apparently neither the State nor other townships have had a problem with his business model.. Afterall, my garbage is Mr. Fischer’s treasure. It behooves him to recycle it. The “Yellow Bag” program has simply made us, all of us who use a local carter, an unpaid employee Their Want Ad might go something like this:

    Recycler Wanted.
    Stay at home position. Requires a thorough. and complete understanding of recyclable materials. Job may also require some costs on the part of the successful candidate . Storage containers and space for recyclables required prior to pick-up. No Pay or Benefits provided, but we would like to express our sincere Thank you for doing what should be our job and making us a much more profitable business.

    Now, for your “Savings” statement. Allow me to give you a basic lesson in “Government”. “Governments DO NOT save money. They spend it!. The difference between Good government and Bad government is how well it is spent”. All of you who have chosen government service as a way of life would do well to remember that I’m not sure how you arrived at those figures. I’m not sure that I care to. It may well be that you managed to spend $400,000 dollars less this year than you did last year. That’s commendable, but rest assurred the cost of running the Transfer Station is citizen’s money spent, not “saved”. If it didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have to spend anything on it. That’s another issue and one for the community to decide. It is well to remember that all services provided by government exist for the benefit and at the discretion of the community it serves. Justification for those services is a constant imperative.

    Randy Young
    Type your comment here.

  • O-K. but the question revolves around why we must use cheap yellow bags that you can’t pick up so you have to put plastic bags inside the yellow bags so not to spill garbage all over. This double bagging is what I understood was part of the problem and not the solution.

    Further, a large town bag costs about $2 and change. Where do we go to get an accounting copy of the money in money out? Who controls and counts the inventory? Where is that line item?

  • Thanks, Flock. We intend to. We’re also going to start tweeting live from the meetings. We’ll have a link form our home page during tomorrow night’s meeting, so people can know what’s going on at the meeting as it happens. — Grant