There’s no garbage strike going on in Southold, but on some streets it looks like it.
Customers of Go-Green Sanitation were left wondering what would become of their trash Thursday when, in keeping with a state court temporary restraining order, the company ceased its scheduled trash pickups.
The town had requested the restraining order as part of its litigation against Go-Green, which officials say has failed to comply with the local code requirement that all trash left out for collection must be placed in special town yellow bags.
One Go-Green customers, who asked not to be named, said the company has not identified any plans to deal with the garbage it usually collects.
“Our trash smells in this summer heat and as of yet, there is no sign that Go-Green is moving towards a solution for us,” the customer said. “You would need a pickup truck to move the trash and recyclables we have amassed after the holiday weekend.”
In a letter sent to his his customers Thursday, Go-Green owner Frank Fisher apologized “for this highly unexpected inconvenience. I need your help to change the town code so this never happens again.”
He urged his customers to contact Town Board members and ask them to overturn the “outdated and ambiguous section of the town code.”
He added that the restraining order is to be argued in court Friday morning and if the order is lifted the company will make pickups this weekend.
“I want to assure you that I have no plans to raise my rates or pull out of Southold Town at this time,” Mr. Fisher wrote.
Supervisor Scott Russell said the problem is of Go-Green’s own making.
“Mr. Fisher had an obligation to let his customers know that litigation was ongoing and he didn’t do that.” the supervisor said. “He took people’s money so he has an obligation to pick up their refuse and do it in a way that complies with the town code.”
On Wednesday, six days after the town obtained the restraining order, police ticketed a Go-Green employee for picking up trash that was not in yellow bags in the Laughing Waters section of Southold. The employee, Larry Burch of Southold, was also cited for operating without a town carter’s permit.
The town revoked Go-Green’s carter’s permit after issuing similar violations in February. The town created the permit requirement in response to its battle with Go-Green.
“The town code expressly prohibits carters from collecting waste from residents that is not in a yellow bag,” said town attorney Martin Finnegan. “Go-Green’s business model is in blatant violation of the town code and encourages its customers to violate the requirement. The court’s issuance of an injunction underscores the fact that convenience and profitability are not justifications for violating the law.”
Go-Green provides its customers with 96-gallon wheeled trash containers that are more than three times the size of a standard garbage can. The company long maintained that customers need not place their trash in the town bags before rolling the containers out onto the street.
Shortly after the company conceded the town’s position on another issue, the need for residents to separate out cans, bottles and other recyclable materials for separate disposal, Supervisor Russell said, “Maybe someday that company can actually live up to the term ‘go green.’ ”
The company was slapped with its first yellow bag violation of the year this past March 29.
In May the town ran an advertisement saying yellow bags are required “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 Conservation have often said repeated violations of local and state trash disposal codes could jeopardize the town’s operating permit for the Cutchogue transfer and recycling facility.
Although the town continues to ticket Go-Green, those cases are on hold in town Justice Court pending the outcome of the state Supreme Court action.
The two sides are scheduled to return to the state court next Thursday, July 19.