Southold follows Brookhaven’s lead on single-stream recycling

Paper, plastic and cardboard recyclables can now be tossed in one place. (Cyndi Murray photo)
Metal, plastic and cardboard recyclables can now be tossed in one place. (Cyndi Murray photo)

Recycling in Southold is projected to jump by more then 20 percent after this week’s launch of a new system that allows residents to combine paper, plastic and metal into one bin — both at the curb and at the town landfill.

The town introduced what’s called single-stream recycling at its Cox Lane transfer station in Cutchogue on Monday. Residents previously needed to separate recyclables.

The move is expected to not only boost recycling efforts, but save the town money on the overall cost of garbage disposal, said Southold’s solid waste coordinator, Jim Bunchuck.

“Certainly a 20 percent increase in recycling is something to count on,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “The new system will make it easier and more efficient for [residents] to recycle.”

Southold Town is the second municipality on Long Island to offer single-stream recycling to its residents.

The first was Brookhaven Town, which announced plans last November to invest $7 million to upgrade the town’s Yaphank recycling plant to include single-stream recycling capabilities. The program was made public in January. Since then, Brookhaven has seen recycling numbers spike, said Supervisor Ed Romaine, a big booster of the single-stream program.

“We have increased the amount of recycling by more than 20 percent and we expect that number to keep rising as people learn more about the types of materials they can recycle,” Mr. Romaine said.

Those materials, he said, include aluminum, cardboard, glass containers, egg cartons, spray cans, even flower pots.

In recent months, the Southold Town Board has been negotiating an agreement with Brookhaven Town for use of its upgraded solid waste facility, where the combined recyclables could be sorted by machine.

That deal, finalized in July, is the reason single-stream was able to move forward in Southold.

Residents out shopping in Mattituck Wednesday all appeared to be enthusiastic about the move.

“You have to make it easy for people to do it,” said Liz Thompson of Mattituck. “I think more people will come around to [recycling] now.”

Christine Elliot of Mattituck said moving the program will be adding much convenience to people’s lives.

“We’ve had to remember which week they are picking up what [recyclables], whether it’s cardboard or glass or whatnot,” she said. “I know there are people who can’t bother to recycle. If they can now put it all out at once and have it picked up, it would be a big help.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said town residents have long been environmentally conscious, saying Southold’s recycling rates are consistently high compared to those of other Long Island towns and villages.

“The people are diligent and take the effort seriously,” he said. “However, we can always improve our numbers and one way to do that is to make recycling as easy and convenient as possible … and we expect to see recycling rates go even higher than they already are.”

The 10-year contract is mutually financially beneficial for both Brookhaven and Southold, Mr. Bunchuck said.

Under the new system, he explained, Brookhaven Town will pay Southold Town $15 for every ton of recycled material sent to the Yaphank facility. In turn, Brookhaven will be paid $20 per ton of recycled materials that it processes at its facility by a private company that will sell that material, Mr. Romaine said.

The increase in recyclables expected at the Cox Lane transfer station will likely come from self-haulers and local carters, Mr. Bunchuck said.

He noted that previously, because private carters required residents to separate their recyclables — alternating the types of materials that were collected each week — customers who missed a particular cycle would often just toss recyclables in with their regular trash rather than wait another weeks.

“If some people build up their recyclables but it is not the right week they would put it in the garbage instead, but that won’t have to happen anymore,” Mr. Bunchuck said.

Scott Schelin, owner of Cutchogue carter North Fork Sanitation, agreed.

“We have a lot of customers who are elderly and it is difficult for them to bundle or tie newspaper or flatten their cardboard,” he said. “If they only have to bring one can out that is easier than three.”

He also agreed with officials’ assessment that recycling will increase.

In addition to bringing in revenue by collecting more recyclable materials, the town is also hoping to save money by hauling away less non-recyclable residential waste, which has typically been a large expense for the solid waste department, Mr. Bunchuck said.

In total, Mr. Bunchuck projects the town will save $25,000 annually compared to the old system.

Southold residents can still bring recyclables to the Cutchogue transfer station for processing free of charge.

Mr. Bunchuck just asks that residents not include retail plastic bags in their recycling.

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with Carrie Miller

[email protected]

with Carrie Miller