Go Green due in court Monday on charge of ignoring yellow bag rule

TIM KELLY PHOTO Officials say if you put out your trash for collection, it must be placed in a town yellow bag, regardless of who picks it up.

Go-Green Sanitation, accused last year of violating both state and town waste disposal regulations, has another date before a judge in Southold Justice Court.

Frank Fisher of Flanders, who owns and operates Go-Green, is due in court next Monday, May 14, on a charge of picking up trash that was not placed in one of the town’s yellow bags.

Mr. Fisher did not return calls for comment by presstime.

The yellow bags were at the center of a dispute last year between Mr. Fisher’s Southampton-based company and the town.

Go-Green provides its customers with 96-gallon wheeled trash containers, more than three times the size of a standard garbage can. The company has long claimed that its customers are not required to put their refuse in the yellow bags.

Southold Town covers most of its disposal costs through the sale of the yellow bags. Officials say that since residents pay only for the trash they generate — rather than an annual fixed amount, which Riverhead and other towns charge — the system is fair and equitable.

In April 2011 the company conceded the town’s position. In a letter to its customers, it said, “…it’s a state law that recyclables be picked up separately at the curb.”

At the time town officials welcomed the outcome.

“I’m glad to see that Go-Green has decided to comply with the laws we have all been honoring for several years now,” Supervisor Scott Russell said last year. “Maybe someday that company can actually live up to the term ‘go green.’ ”

According to the town, Mr. Fisher is no longer living up to that commitment.

The pending code violation claims a Go-Green truck was seen picking up trash that was not in town yellow bags along Wickham Avenue in Mattituck on March 29. The complaint also says the company routinely collects trash that’s not in yellow bags.

Local carters have complained that by skirting the regulations Go-Green can undercut their business by charging less. Any company that does not pick up recyclables separately would need to make only half as many runs through town as a firm that does comply. In a recent business solicitation, Go-Green boasts “No more yellow bags,” and makes no reference to separating out recyclables.

The town has long disputed the company’s claim that no bags are needed because the trash is not disposed of locally, arguing that the code requires all trashed picked up within the town to be in yellow bags, regardless of its ultimate destination.

“Is he making a good faith effort? We haven’t seen the results,” said assistant town attorney Lori Hulse. “Because we didn’t see the results we had hoped to see, the town had to take a stand.”

In advertising its services earlier this year, a second trash collection firm known as NewGreen also offered its customers 96-gallon containers and “no more yellow bags.”

NewGreen claims it recycles according to code and processes all household materials locally. Last month the company received a letter from the town saying it would be guilty of a code violation if it does not require its customers to use the yellow bags.

In an advertisement under the heading “Notice About Town Garbage Bags” appearing in this week’s Suffolk Times, the town reiterates that position, saying the yellow bags must be used “for everyday residential household waste, whether the resident brings waste to the transfer station themselves or has a private carter picking up their garbage at curbside. Basically, this means your kitchen garbage has to be in town bags.”

The town and the state Department of Environmental Conservations have stated that repeated violations of state and local refuse disposal codes could jeopardize the town’s permit to operate its Cutchogue waste transfer and recycling center.

Although a first offense carries a fine of up to $5,000, the town is not looking for “heavy fines” against Go-Green, Ms. Hulse said. “But if he doesn’t comply, that could be down the road.”

The town, she added, simply wants the company to follow the law.

“If he needs to educate his customers or change his business practices, he has to comply with the yellow bag and recycling requirements,” she said.

In an Equal Time submission in January 2011, Mr. Fisher wrote that he was guilty of nothing more than creating competition and giving customers a choice.

“America was built on free enterprise and hard work,” he said. “Now it’s in trouble because of greed and too much government. Maybe the town should leave the garbage business to private industry.”

Mr. Fishers’s troubles with local government last year were not limited to Southold. In August he was accused by Southampton Town authorities of illegally running several businesses and an apartment on a residential-zoned Flanders property.

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