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.