With ongoing unrest in Southold Town about the expense and inconvenience regarding mandated yellow garbage bags for both residents and independent garbage carters, members of the Southold Town Board are looking into long-term solutions to make doing garbage better on the North Fork.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Councilman William Ruland said that the process of hauling garbage from the town transfer station in Cutchogue out to other states for incineration is becoming a thing of the past — it’s not sustainable economically or environmentally.
“There is no better way to ensure recycling than source separation, which is what our yellow bag system is meant to do, but the key is with the carters and the bigger businesses around here,” he said, referring to restaurants and businesses who use dumpsters and are exempt from the yellow bag law, thus in theory recycling less and hurting the town’s transfer center economically.
A slideshow at a November Southold Town Board meeting, when yellow bags became mandated for all residents, revealed that yellow bags, which can be purchased at the solid waste facility or at select retail stores in town, not only provide the town with $425,000 of its annual $4,154,00 revenue, the yellow bag system has also dramatically increased recycling efforts by residents in Southold Town since its state approval in 1995. The Town currently has an annual recycling rate of 31 percent — the highest of any on Long Island, according to a study conducted by the Stony Brook University Waste Reduction and Management Institute.
But even with the high recycling rate, Scott Russell said that he and board members would like to see better compliance with the recycling rates from commercial operations on the whole.
“The law is already on the books — it is New York State law that any material that can be recycled needs to be pulled out of the regular waste stream and handled separately and delivered to recycling markets,” he said.
But the bigger issue for Russell is the hauling of garbage out of state by long haul trucks, which themselves use expensive fuel which isn’t good for the environment nor for Southold’s bottom line, he said.
“We have been looking for options that would not only increase our recycling efforts but would also reduce the need for trucking off Long Island,” Russell said. “Sooner or later, destinations such as Ohio or West Virginia may simply no longer be available to us. Personally, I think it is a train wreck coming and it needs to be addressed sooner rather then later.”
The root economic problem with the system is that most places available to handle garbage are expensive and require a lot of garbage to be economically compelling. Southold, Russell said, does not have that kind of money nor the amount of refuse in its waste stream to do that kind of business at its own waste facility.
“Systems like gasification, or burn-to-energy plants cost a great deal of money to construct and require lots of refuse to ‘feed,’” he said. “We have had various representatives come before the board to propose different ideas, but to date, none of these plans proved to be economically viable.”
Russell said he is going to reach out to the supervisors of Suffolk County’s 10 towns to consider working together to develop a regional solution to a growing problem.
“Economically, this would make more sense then the different jurisdictions all going in different directions,” he said.
What do you think? Should garbage be handled regionally rather than locally?
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