Southold residents can expect a change to their recycling routines in the near future, but for now, the single-stream method will stay in effect.
The town switched to single-stream recycling in 2014 because of projected benefits such as a 20 percent increase in recycling and added convenience for residents. But due to unintended consequences and changes in the global market, it has proven unsustainable.
In October, solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck said Southold would soon have to reconsider the way it collects and manages recyclables. He added more recently that most likely in 2019, residents will be asked to start sorting their recyclables.
Southold had an inter-municipal agreement with the Town of Brookhaven through 2024; however, Green Stream Recycling, which was contracted by Brookhaven to sort and sell recycling, shut down at the end of October. Residents in Brookhaven were notified this month that as of Nov. 21, paper products must be separated from plastics and metals.
The Southold Town Board passed an emergency resolution at last Tuesday’s regular meeting that allowed them to send recyclables to Omni Recycling of Babylon. The cost for sorting the single-stream material is the same as when they shipped it to Green Stream at $82 per ton, and the transportation cost is about $22 cheaper at $400 per truckload, according to Mr. Bunchuck.
“We’re not looking at dramatically greater costs if we can reasonably, quickly get turned around. The costs are really going to be nominal,” he said.
There is a backlog of recyclables at the Southold Transfer Station in Cutchogue due to Green Stream’s closure. Nothing had been picked up between Oct. 24 and Nov. 9. Omni in Babylon was the only facility on Long Island that would take unsorted material, Mr. Bunchuck said.
“We’re eating that down and probably by next week we will be in a position to rearrange the facility to accept sorted materials,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a requirement for a while because we want people to get used to the idea.”
He added that the town must ensure that it will wait until they have precise instructions for residents so it does not change again. It has also not been decided where recyclables will go once the town has switched to dual-stream.
“Once it is sorted, there will be multiple outlets for the sorted materials,” he said.
Within the next few weeks, residents may notice that sorting materials will be available but not required.
At 6 p.m. Dec. 5, Supervisor Scott Russell and Mr. Bunchuck will be discussing recycling changes at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library.
Photo caption: Paper, plastic and cardboard recyclables will no longer be tossed in one place. (Cyndi Zaweski file photo)