Picking up town-issued yellow bags is as common on a Southold residents’ grocery list as a carton of milk. They are a necessary part of the self-hauling, “Pay As You Throw” garbage disposal system the town implemented more than 20 years ago.
And while the program remains much the same since it began, the town’s solid waste department is aiming to share statistics, facts and clear up misconceptions about the program with a recently updated brochure.
The program launched in 1993 as a way to pay for shipping garbage out of town for disposal following a court decision requiring the old Cutchogue landfill to close. As it turned out, not only did it raise enough revenue to cover disposal costs, it also helped reduce the amount of waste generated and resulted in an increase in recycling. In the first year alone, recycling increased more than 70 percent, bringing Southold into compliance with state-mandated recycling goals, according to the pamphlet.
However, the program was not without controversy. In 2011, Southold Town sued Go-Green Sanitation over whether it can pick up garbage that is not in town-issued yellow bags. The company is still required to use the bags for the customers it does pick up for in Southold Town while litigation is pending.
Solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck said the brochure should help clear up misconceptions about the town’s program stemming from the litigation and educate the public on the necessity of the bags.
“In connection with the Go-Green controversy a couple of years ago, we noticed there was still actually a lot of misinformation about the bags, even though it had been in place for so long,” he said. “So I decided to do something comprehensive based on all the years of data from our program, as well as some research done by others and finally put something out with the information. It includes the rationale, history, financial and environmental benefits of the program — the savings it has resulted in over 20 years are especially impressive.”
The town saved roughly $8 million since it began, according to the brochure, through avoided disposal costs, such as waste that was either recycled or not generated at all and revenues from the sale of the additional recyclables.
“This is nearly equivalent to the cost of the three largest infrastructure improvements made by the town over that time — the compost site, the new transfer station and the new animal shelter,” the brochure states.
The brochure is now available for free anywhere town-issued yellow bags are sold.
For a list of locations and to find out more about the program, read the online version of the brochure by scrolling down.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Go Green had stopped picking up yellow bags. The company is still required to do so while litigation between the company and town is pending. We regret the error.