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Town awaits state OK on new waste management plan

Southold is awaiting state approval for a new 10-year Local Solid Waste Management Plan. 

The LSWMP encompasses both the Town of Southold and the incorporated Village of Greenport. Fishers Island is not included in the plan and exports waste to Connecticut, according to the LSWMP.

“Local planning units must have an approved Local Solid Waste Management Plan (LSWMP) that describes the management, handling and disposal of solid waste and recyclables,” according to the document. Southold’s plan was prepared in accordance with state guidelines and “examines the Town’s current solid waste management experience and future plans to continue and expand its integrated solid waste management plan consistent” with state goals for waste minimization.

Some of the new plan’s priorities include creating new ways for people to recycle, collecting more data about waste streams within town boundaries, promoting the reuse and recycling of more construction and demolition debris, reducing organic waste — which currently makes up about 25-30% of the local waste stream — and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“A lot of things with regards to solid waste have been maybe under the radar but the public should know that we are integrating with the state and the requirements there and the goals they set and we’re doing our best to meet them with the resources we have,” said Jim Bunchuk, solid waste coordinator at Southold.

Right now, the “single biggest focus from the state” is reducing organic waste, and food waste in particular, according to Mr. Bunchuk. 

Organic waste is considered the “largest ‘unnecessary’ component of disposed waste because it can be composted, though it has to be done properly to avoid odor and rodent issues,” he said by email. He noted that state regulations taking effect in 2022 will “require large generators of food waste state-wide to divert the waste to permitted compost facilities, digesters, and, if still edible, food banks.” 

The requirement will only impact generators producing two tons of organic waste on average per week over the course of a year. Southold is not directly affected by the law, although the town “can consider smaller scale efforts on its own if it wishes to,” he said. 

Southold has a composting facility already that is only approved for yard waste, although it does not accept food waste yet. Mr. Bunchuk expects the town will likely apply for permission for a limited pilot project “to accept some food waste from one or two larger generators such as grocery store produce markets to assess our ability to properly incorporate it with the existing operation.” Residential food scraps might be accepted in the future, but that can be “problematic” because “on an individual level, it’s hard to get everyone to do it exactly right.” Paper, plastic and straws, among other things, could pose an issue. 

The waste department also hopes to promote recycling at public events like the Maritime and Strawberry festivals, and prioritize expanding “public information efforts on effective recycling and waste management practices.”

Long Island is facing a lot of changes in waste management over the coming years, Mr. Bunchuk emphasized. The Brookhaven landfill, for instance, is set to reach capacity and consequently close by 2024, which would make it more expensive to process debris from construction and demolition.

The Town of Southold passed its first LSWMP, a 20-year plan, in 1995. The town started drafting a new ten-year plan in accordance with state guidance in 2015, but was held up by first a changing regulatory framework and then the pandemic. Mr. Bunchuk said the plan will likely be up for renewal again in 2025, although it’s possible the deadline will be pushed back in acknowledgment of the delays. 

The plan was adopted by the Town Board and a public hearing was held Nov. 16. There were “no real comments” on revision, according to Mr. Bunchuk. The plan was sent to the DEC for formal approval. 

The LSWMP is available on the town website.