The Southold recycling war is over and the town has prevailed.
After a months-long battle between the town and Go-Green Sanitation, the Riverhead-based trash hauling company has conceded that its customers need to separate recyclable materials from their trash prior to pickup, and that the company must make separate runs to collect garbage and recyclables such as cans, glass and paper.
When the company began marketing its services in Southold last year, it told residents they no longer needed to place their trash in yellow town bags, or to recycle. It supplied customers with 96-gallon containers to hold all their trash together.
Go-Green claimed that because it trucked the trash to up-island disposal centers, where recyclables materials would be separated out, instead of to the town collection center in Cutchogue, Southold residents no longer needed to follow town disposal rules.
The town quickly objected, arguing that state and local law requires recycling and that by ignoring those codes Go-Green enjoyed an unfair and illegal economic advantage over local carting companies. With trash bypassing the Cutchogue facility, the town stood to lose a considerable amount in disposal fee revenues. Town officials have long said such fees fall short of covering the debt service on the $4 million transfer station constructed during the Horton administration.
In a letter to its customers, Go-Green conceded that “ … it is a state law that recyclables be picked up separately at the curb.” In addition to hauling away trash, the company plans to make two regular recycling runs, one for paper and one for glass and plastic.
Supervisor Scott Russell downplayed the outcome.
“The Town was on the right side of the issue,” he said. “I am glad to see that Go-Green has decided to comply with the laws we have all been honoring for several years now. The benefits of recycling are long settled. I am glad to see the compliance and maybe, someday, that company can actually live up to the term ‘go green.’ ”
Since Go-Green still does not use the town collection center, its customers need not put their trash in town yellow bags.
Over the past several months, Go-Green owner Frank Fisher has argued that the trash he collects is recycled at the out-of-town facilities he employs. The town disputed that, and this week the state Department of Environmental Conservation agreed with that position.
The DEC told the Winters Brothers company and others used by Go-Green that no trash collection firm on Long Island is licensed to separate trash, said department spokesman Bill Fonda.
Although enforcing the recycling law is the town’s responsibility, the DEC frowned upon Go-Green’s initial offer to pick up recyclables just once each month.
“If people had to hold on to this material for a whole month, some of it would likely go out with the regular trash,” Mr. Fonda said.
In an Equal Time column printed in The Suffolk Times in January, Mr. Fisher claimed he was guilty of nothing more than creating competition and offering customers a choice.
“American was built on free enterprise and hard work,” the Flanders resident wrote. “Now it’s in trouble because of greed and too much government. Maybe the town should leave the garbage business to private industry.”
On March 1, Mr. Fisher was ticketed for one violation of the town’s recycling code, according to zoning inspector Damon Rallis. When the carter did not appear for the Town Justice Court hearing on March 19, Town Justice William Price ordered the preparation of a criminal summons to compel Mr. Fisher’s court attendance.
Mr. Fisher’s attorney, Anthony Conforti of Southampton, entered a not-guilty plea on Mr. Fisher’s behalf in court on April 18 and the case was adjourned to May.
Mr. Conforti did not respond to requests for comment.