You’ve probably done it.
Cans, bottles and paper are starting to pile up on the counter, so you stick the items in a plastic bag you received at a grocery store. You then take the bag and dump it, along with all your recyclables, in a garbage bin.
But that’s creating an issue in Southold Town — even in this new era of single-stream recycling.
“Plastic [bags] create a problem for the system,” said Southold Town’s solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck, referring to the machine that sorts recyclables from local residents after the items are transferred to Green Stream Recycling in Brookhaven. “The [parts] that sort the materials get jammed up with too many bags … the [employees picking bags off the line] can’t get to them all. It’s sort of like Lucy and Ethel picking the candy.”
Mr. Bunchuck said that while there are multiple signs at the town’s transfer station on Cox Lane in Cutchogue urging residents not to dump plastic shopping bags along with their recyclables, the problem still exists with waste picked up by private carters. A major reason people dump the bags, he said, is that the text on them states that they are recyclable, but he said they can only be recycled with other bags using a different machine.
Councilwoman Jill Doherty suggested at Tuesday’s Town Board work session that the town include a flier in bills sent to residents to help educate them on the issue. Councilman Bill Ruland said the town should run a public service announcement on Channel 22.
Mr. Bunchuck said Green Stream does offer public tours of its facilities and that he has encouraged the more than two dozen local residents who have inquired about the process to reach out to the company. Mr. Ruland and Councilman Bob Ghosio said they intend to visit the plant in the near future.
The rest of Mr. Bunchuck’s report on single-stream recycling — which allows for paper, plastic and cans to be processed together, along with other items — contained good news, as he shared statistics regarding the three-month old program. Recycling is up 26 percent in Southold Town over the same period last year since the program was launched in September.
He said the town has recorded a net savings of more than $9,200 due to single-stream recycling.
“That’s about what we projected,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “We anticipated about $25,000 per year, so we’re doing even better than that.”
Southold was the second Suffolk County town to switch to single-stream recycling after Brookhaven first did it earlier this year. Huntington will launch its own single-stream recycling program next month and Islip is expected to follow soon after.