Tensions were running high at Tuesday night during a public hearing aimed at vetting new legislation that would require garbage carters to obtain permits and cancel licenses for those not in compliance.
Ron Fisher, of , a Riverhead-based carter, came before the board to express concerns.
Fisher, brother of Go-Green owner Frank Fisher, aimed to set the record straight.
“There is a misconception that we’re not offering curbside separation, but we absolutely are,” he said.
Go-Green sparked ire when it came onto the carter scene in Southold in recent months, offering curbside pickup at lower prices than the competition and offering to recycle trash for customers, with advertisements stating the company would eliminate the need for customers to purchase , separate their own waste, or get “their hands dirty.”
But Fisher assured on Tuesday night that the company now practices curbside separation.
Local officials and state Department of Environmental Conservation representatives have questioned Go-Green’s practices and maintained that the company violated waste recycling laws.
At the meeting, Fisher offered up a laundry list of points questioning the new legislation, stating that a provision still existed that could mean prosecution for carters not utilizing yellow town bags.
“You can selectively enforce,” the law, he said. And, Fisher added that while the board has made it clear “that you are not going to enforce” the yellow bag component of the legislation “you’re not going to be here forever.”
New and future boards might offer different interpretation of the code, he said.
The clause, Fisher believes, should have been eliminated from the rewritten legislation.
Southold Town attorney Martin Finnegan said that the language of the legislation was not new — some items had just been relocated with an eye toward clarity. And, he added, “The issue of town bag usage is not addressed in this," carter provision.
Fisher also demanded whether the new carter legislation might “target” individual haulers.
After the meeting, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the yellow bag issue is not new to the code and has been part of the solid waste management plan since it was adopted in 1993.
“We have made it clear on many occasions that the town has not enforced that and, frankly, if a carter is not bringing refuse to the landfill we operate but one out of town, I could care less about what bag the garbage is in. Go-Green knows this and continues to use the unpopularity of the yellow bag program to take focus away from the real issue here – that the company built their business model around encouraging its customers to not honor state and town recycling laws like everyone else.”
Of Fisher’s comments, Russell said, “Go-Green raised no legitimate concerns tonight.” The company, he said, “did not comply with state required curbside separation of the recyclable material and the town has been struggling to get that company to comply with the rules.”
The proposed new carting license, Russell said, will provide oversight to an industry that has had none locally in the past, affording an ability to license carters and cancel licenses for those “who choose to ignore the law.”
He added, “The reporting requirements placed on carters now allows us to simply make them prove that they are complying. We can’t rely on false advertising, we need to rely on the facts.’
Placing a requirement on carters asking for records of all waste handled by the town, including recycled material, allows for oversight, Russell said. “Basically, they will need to report how much refuse they handle in the town, how much is general municipal waste, and how much is recycled material. We can then confirm those numbers with the facility handling that company’s waste and we will then know if they are truly separating recycled material from the general waste stream.”
Fisher questioned the new requirement mandating turning over such information to the town. “This is a private business matter,” Fisher said, adding that originally, names and address of customers were to have been required, and that information, “could be released to anyone.”
Town Councilman Chris Talbot assured the point had been addressed and now only list of numbers and types of clients, and amounts of waste would be required, not personal information.
Now that the matter has been addressed, Fisher said “it’s of less concern.”
G0-Green has been at the center of a firestorm of controversy in recent months, being cited once in Southold Town and also, investigated by Southampton Town and the DEC for allegedly operating an illegal transfer station at Frank Fisher’s Flanders home.
“The violations piling up on that company seem to suggest they need to follow state and town recycling law like everyone else,” Russell said.
But representatives of Go-Green feel they may be unfairly singled out. Fisher said in one instance, he believes the Department of Environmental Conservation had sent a representative “to watch for” the Go-Green truck.
‘Take up the issue with the DEC,” Russell said, adding the DEC is “well aware” of the ongoing issue.
Fisher has maintained that he empties his trash at a recycling center in Medford, where the yellow bags are not required.
After Fisher’s comments, Southold Town Councilwoman Louisa Evans and Councilwoman William Ruland suggested tabling the resolution until the next meeting. Although Russell said he was ready to vote, Ruland asked to table the issue for two weeks. “I’d like some time to contemplate some of the comments made,” he said.