Southold Town to hold recycling forum Feb. 24

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02/16/2011 2:41 PM |

What does state law say about the need to recycle?

And does the town code require residents to separate cans, bottles and other recyclable materials before putting out their trash for a private carter to haul away?

Town officials say they’ll have the answers to those and others questions about refuse removal policies during a special informational meeting in the Town Hall meeting room next Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m.

“Let’s have a discussion,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “Let’s stop with the rhetoric, get the facts out on the table and take public input.”

The forum comes in response to the town’s ongoing dispute with the operators of Go-Green Residential Sanitation, the only trash collection company doing business in Southold that picks up unrecycled trash. The town says Go-Green violates both state and town recycling laws. The company contends that what it hauls is recycled out of town, at a state-licensed facility where cans, glass and plastic are removed before the trash is carted away.

Go-Green principal Frank Fisher said his business is breaking no law.

“We’re not doing anything illegal,” he said. “As long as the stuff is being recycled, what difference does it make who does it?”
“People can have their say, but it’s unrealistic to expect New York to change its recycling laws, which require separation prior to pickup,” said Mr. Russell.

The supervisor said copies of all applicable state and town laws will be available at the forum.

Peter Scully, regional director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, has said the town’s take on recycling law is correct. He added that responsibility for enforcing the law rests with the town, which so far has not issued any violations to Go-Green for picking up mixed waste at the curb in violation of the town code.

In the wake of the Go-Green dispute, some critics have questioned the need for the town to even have a transfer station, where recyclables are collected, or a yellow bag fee program for non-recyclable waste. Southold finances its waste disposal program by requiring residents to buy and use special yellow trash bags. The theory is that residents pay for waste disposal in proportion to the amount of trash they generate.

As an incentive to recycle, the town does not charge residents for disposal of glass, cans, plastic and paper at the transfer station.
If all carters bypassed the town, as Go-Green does, and the town elected to get out of the waste business and close the transfer station, there would be no more leaf and brush pickup, Mr. Russell said.

“And what would we do with all the old tires?” he asked. “What about the boat shrink-wrap that comes to us in tons each spring? And then local mechanics would have no place to bring their used oil.

“People need to be aware of the whole picture,” Mr. Russell said, “not just one component such as the yellow bags.”

Like most Long Island municipalities, Southold buried it trash in unlined pits until state legislation outlawed that practice in the 1980s. The old dumps polluted groundwater supplies, and a plume of contamination has been detected moving north to Long Island Sound from the old Cutchogue dump.

The town now trucks all its trash out of state.

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8 Comment

  • One comment needs correction. I stated that if the Town loses it’s permit to run the facility then we would not have the ability to dispose of anything- like leaves, brush and tires. The solid waste is only part of the picture. i have no problem changing the code so that any company can pick up houshold garbage in any color bag they desire and take it any where they choose. However, the recycling requirements can not change. Those are part of state law and must remain. If we do not enforce that, we risk losing the permit. Scott

  • Scott,
    I’d like to believe that you are truly looking at both sides of the coin here, but it still looks as if you are hiding behind a State Law here which admittedly I have not been able to find or read. I would hope that it is written in such a way and not so rigid that it prevents better ways of doing things when they are presented and possible. If Go-Green is recycling the picked up garbage prior to it entering a landfill, then they become the source of the garbage, freeing the homeowner of that responsibility. I believe that this is indeed a better, more efficient and more ecologically sound way of recycling the planet’s waste. Relying on millions of Americans to do what’s right by the planet makes about as much sense as believing that the current way we do things is effective and can’t be done better. Centralizing and simplifying the system has got to be much more effective. Isn’t that one of the things a Town Board is for? Sorting out the ********? I hope the State Law allows for better ideas. I look forward to reading it..

  • The State law you look for is The General Municpal Law section 120aa. We will have copies at the forum. Also, I think that the State is getting tougher enforcing seperation prior to pick up, not easier. They revoked the permit For the Town of Hempstead and the Town sued, and lost. The model there was Hempstead’s effort to seperate post collection and only required paper to be seperated curbside. The State DEC voided that jurisdictions permit. We will have everything available at the forum and I will certainly listen to any ideas that get put on the table. Scott Russell

  • Thank you for telling us what State Law you are looking at. As for the rest of the above comment, you are a bit short on specifics here, Scott. What year was this? Were they in violation of their own model? Were they doing what they say they were doing? Was their recycling documentation in order? Did this ruling deal with commercial as opposed to residential? Without the specifics, there may have been any number of reasons that led to the voiding of Hempstead’s permit. Post collection separation may have been and probably was only one of the many issues involved. For all I know, from your above statement, it may not have even been addressed in the decision. We probably need that ruling at the forum The State Law is about as clear as mud. It was in 1993 and it still is today. Source Separation does not appear to have any legal definition. Again, none that I could find anyway…

  • I agree that it should all be there and it should all be discussed at the forum.I asked the Town Attorney to have available all pertinant case law and copies of state and town code. Again,Iam coming to listen to what people have to say. I invited State DEC reps but do not know if any will be there. I am not coming to insist on a position but, merely tell you what the current law requires of us as a Town. Iwill bring any and all ideas to the DEC for consideration. Scott

  • .Scott,

    I would like to thank you once again for revealing the State Recycling Law that we are talking about. I have now had the chance to read it and consider it. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has a very clear section on it and it’s history and I am reminded of that history as I write this. I hope that this letter does not bore our readers as I am presenting it primarily for your consideration and for those of us who are thinking deeply on this issue. The State Law is as revealing in the things that it doesn’t say as in the things it does.

    In 1988 “The primary mandate of the Solid Waste Management Act is to reduce the amount of waste destined for landfills and incinerators in New York State.” I can recall that time now. I’m getting old enough for that. It was the birth of recycling. Our landfills were filling up, not just here in Southold but throughout the nation. Valuable resources (recyclables) were going into our Landfills every day and being wasted. This was treasure, not garbage, and even a light reading of our laws reveal it as such. Recyclables have value. You can see that in the host of products that are found on grocery store shelves today., but I digress. The State had determined that something had to be done and the Mandate was written and in rather clear words I might add. (GML120-aa paragraph 2.a. excerpt) “solid waste which has been left for collection or which is delivered by the generator of such waste to a solid waste management facility shall be separated into recyclables”. Re-read that. Slowly. It’s a rather simple statement. There is no onus on the homeowner. Clearly it is placed on the deliverer of the solid waste to the landfill….(the source separator, the one who holds the treasure). There are no requirements that address the homeowner at all with the exception of those who choose to bring their own garbage to the landfill. In that case, we are required to sort and separate our own waste into its recyclables in as much as they have value. I have no issue with that.

    There was a problem though. In 1988 there were no recyclers. There was no market for recyclables Not yet anyway. . Our “Carters” were our “Garbage Men.” and they were not about to sort our garbage for us. They resist to this day. It would be cost prohibitive and time consuming and they would like to remain just “carters” The law didn’t prohibit that but it didn’t expressly say they had to do anymore than that either, not if there were another way. That other way was to convince everyone to become their unpaid employees and the nation, as a whole, bought it, hook, line and sinker. We would do the separating and they would profit by it. Sweet deal and one that has become better over time as the recycling market has grown. I can still remember those arguments clearly. There may even be some written in the Suffolk Times from that era. I’m sure there are. Homeowner Garbage Separation was born. Yellow bags, multiple pick–up days, a constant re-education in what is or is not recyclable and even our current discussion. Everyone has a garbage story. In short, it was the birth of the mess we have today, dumpsters used to skirt the yellow bag laws, Yellow bags that contain anything that anyone wants to throw in them, a scale at the Transfer station that will accept anything going over it by Mr. Bunchuck’s own admission. garbage coming into the town from out of town only to be carted away again. This is not recycling, Mr. Russell. This is a mess!

    But I do have a suggestion. I believe, at this point from what I have learned and read that we should do nothing! The current laws, both state and local appear to cover the situation. Go-Green claims to be not just a “carter” but also a “recycler” The level of that recycling in his case really isn’t our concern anymore. We no longer have a Landfill and he is ridding himself of the picked up Garbage in ways that are acceptable to the State. If his documentation to that effect is in order and the State agrees, what argument do we have and where and how would our permits be threatened? Garbage and recyclable material going to the Transfer Station is still controlled by the Yellow bag system however inadequate that might be. Perhaps those laws should be enforced a bit better. Mr. Fischer is an upstart “recycler”with what may well be a better idea for all of us. Our well established local multi-million dollar “carting businesses” will survive the loss a few customers even if they are finally forced to adjust to a new paradigm. They have a very loyal following. Go-Green may fall flat on their face and Mr.Fischer may or may not find that his business model is a lot more expensive than he currently believes. Personally, I would hope he succeeds as I believe that would be good for all of us..

    And so, for the final question, “ Do we really need the transfer station?” For the time being , I believe we probably do, but might we, over time, be better served simply by a much scaled down recycling center or even private recycling centers geared to the handling of that “treasure?” Perhaps this is a cost we no longer need to bear or perhaps, if it is truly “Revenue Neutral” it is something we should keep. A question for another day.


    Randy Young