Southold Town to Consider Options to Yellow Garbage Bags

After 20 years under the same law and now litigation, board members say they will try to change requirements for dumping garbage in town.

Since 1993, residents of have had to buy special yellow bags from the town in order to throw their garbage away at the in Cutchogue. The law was enacted in order to encourage residents to recycle instead of throw everything away and to comply with state-mandated recycling goals, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

But with the option of paying a private carter — and more private carters now trying to do business in town — residents have become more confused by the yellow bag requirement. And the Town has taken legal steps to stop Riverhead-based private carter from picking up garbage curbside that is not in yellow bags — even thought the carter takes the garbage to Medford, not the town's transfer station.

Go-Green Sanitation was recently issued violations for picking up residential refuse that was not in as is required by the Town. The town passed a resolution to a 120-day standstill agreement this Tuesday at a regular Town Hall meeting, lifting a restraining order and allowing Go-Green to get back to business as usual starting Thursday until a permanent solution can be found.

But Ron Fisher of Go-Green addressed members of the Town Board Tuesday, as did several residents of the community who expressed their unhappiness with the yellow bag system.

“A year ago, you defended the yellow bags with stats from 1992,” Fisher said to Russell at the meeting. “I’m wondering if you’ve looked at what’s been happening in the past two decades. The people of Southold recycle — I don’t think that is the issue anymore.”

Russell said that Southold Town’s recycling numbers have consistently been higher than other towns on Long Island and that the yellow bag system has been an integral part of that.

“The state expects us to comply to recycling requirements, and we are trying to find new options to meet state needs,” he said. “We will take the issue up over the next couple of weeks. The town does not have the unilateral right to do away with something because we don’t like it — we have to replace it with something else that will helps meet the same goals of reducing, reusing and recycling.”

Russell added that revenue is not a main motivation for the town to stick with the yellow bags.

“That’s a misnomer,” he said. “The transfer station has a $4.1 million budget each year, and out of that, the yellow bags bring in $425,000. So the issue of yellow bags is not all about revenue — there’s Hazmat, there’s electronic waste, there’s brush. The bigger issue is the recycling components, to enforce separation. The intent of the law is not dealing just with solid waste.”

At the meeting, Rocky DiVello, co-owner of private carter, expressed concern that all private carters are treated fairly by the town, as did Scott Schelin of

“I’ve been dealing with the yellow bag system for 20 years, and it may be outdated,” Schelin said. “But if you change it I would ask that it be good for the environment, that we pertain to the Department of Environmental Conservation rules — and that the law is clearly written. That’s part of the problem with tossing things around and picking everything apart. We need everything clearly written without the need to hire an attorney to interpret — so that everyone understands.”

Russell said that the first goal of the board is to level the playing field for all involved in the local solid waste industry.

“It’s a heavily regulated industry, and we need to start over on fair terms,” he said.

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john smith July 18, 2012 at 02:15 AM
MY Garbage will stay on my lawn till it is picked up by Go Green. As I have stated even if they had a point with Go Green's policy, why would they not let them do a week of final pick up to avoid the health, animal issues they are now going to have. The pile is getting higher!!!
Ty Stroudsburg July 18, 2012 at 03:03 AM
You could take it to the dump yourself, in yellow bags. What's the problem?????
Jonathan Baker July 18, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Let's change the law to allow garbage collection by businesses such as "Go Green" to legally sort elsewhere, without the need for purchased yellow plastic bags, as long as the garbage eventually does get sorted. The new law must be reasonable, well understood, and economically fair to all, including commercial businesses. Our community has no right to thwart the development of new business. Disclosure: I buy yellow bags and haul my own garbage and sorted recyclables to the "town dump" and have no desire to utilize a commercial picker-upper.
Erin Schultz (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Katharine Schroeder said on Facebook: "I think it's a fine system. It encourages recycling and composting (the less you throw away, the fewer bags you have to buy). Cost is reasonable and the town improved the quality of the bags after complaints that they tore easily."
j July 19, 2012 at 03:00 AM
With the amount of taxes we pay, the town should pick up our trash for free and recycling! We should not be adding more plastic crap into the environment with Scott's money making yellow bags. wake up people.....vote them all out!! We should also be able to go to our beaches for free and not need a money making sticker. sticker for this, sticker for that...money, money, money it's all about the Benjamin's! Everyday the tb is taking our rights away one by one and no one is paying attention!! One day it's all to late :(
Benjamin Heins July 19, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Ummm, "free"? It costs a lot of money to pick up garbage, there is no such thing as free.
GLENN July 19, 2012 at 05:33 AM
why do the people in this town allow this, the tax payers should demand the "TOWN" do as what works for the tax payers not what works for these out dated boards...wake up TOWN have it done your way stop being told what you WILL comply with!
GLENN July 19, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Jennifer Mercer July 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Mr. Russell's statements continue to amaze me - how does the yellow bag policy enforce recycling. You can put recyclables in any color bag Mr. Russell - yellow, pink and even a rainbow colored bag. So he really needs to elaborate on how a colored bag enforces recycling. This policy is the most ridiculous policy ever - I can't even call it outdated because 20 years ago it was dumb. Perhaps the revenue does drive the process but where do our taxes go? They keep going up and up and up yet we continue to pay for every privilage extended to us in this town including getting rid of garbage - I feel pretty confident in saying this town is poorly run - and Mr. Russell is skirting the bigger issue here - as he always does. And I really think he needs a lesson on the role of the elected official - and that role does not dictate what I do with my garbage or how I get rid of it - if I wanted to live like that I would move to China. Not sure when his term is up but even though I am a republican this guy is not getting my vote - a self serving idiot.
Erin Schultz (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Michael Edelson said via email: "IS SOUTHOLD UNAMERICAN? Southold Town is demanding that I pay for something I do not use. Would you pay for a dessert that you did not order or eat? What would your reaction be? Since my sorted garbage, separated properly and fulfilling all State requirements, travels up island to a NYS certified facility, how dare Scott Russell & Co. think of even charging me for their services that as far as I am concerned might as well be located on the moon. Lunacy laced with arrogance produces bad laws. And bad laws, as with substandard statesmen, do not have to remain on the books or in office. When Go-Green arrived, our town fathers, quoted in the press, chatted away about how many customers the “old boy carters” were losing. Denials by the same bunch that this latest maneuver was not, heaven forbid, politically motivated ring loud, clear and hollow. I wonder how much $ Mattituck and North Fork contributed to the GOP during the last election so that the whole world, if they could make it happen, would be required to use Southold’s yellow bags to wrap their garbage. Just imagine how much revenue India alone could generate for our municipality."
Erin Schultz (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Michael Edelson said via email: "This canard about a “level playing field” is a cover-up for taking care of the established carters. Com’ on gentlemen, all of you except one are true blue Republicans who supposedly espouse the American capitalistic way of doing business—a better mouse trap always wins the day! Go Green devised a more efficient, less costly and vastly superior business plan than the competition. This “leveling the playing field” nonsense is true red Socialistic cronyism. It is up to North Fork and Mattituck to come up with innovative thinking and competitive action instead of high tailing it to their town fathers and crying “ Boo hoo…Go Green is beating us up daddy”. Com’ on guys grow up!"
GLENN July 19, 2012 at 07:49 PM
JET July 20, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I still don't see how recycleable items can be thrown in with actual GARBAGE which is the Go Green's way. Seattle WA has a very user friendly web site as to how to seperate your garbage, food and yard (which is turned into compost) and recycles. So you have three receptacles at your house. Not one where all your "stuff" goes. If they seperate in Seattle who is the nations model of being green there is NO WAY garbage and recycles can be thrown out together. It just doesn't make sense. Think about it. Or better yet..check out the Seattle web site...
Michael Edelson July 20, 2012 at 02:49 PM
As Go Green customers, we separate our trash just as everyone else does in Southold who uses a carting service. The town board attempts to maintain this misconception with the smoke and mirrors of NYS requirements. All carters licensed to work in Southold obey state regulations. They have to. The town board is upset that they placed an order last year for a huge number of yellow bags that are not moving as quickly as they would like and it is tying up their money. We told them that these yellow bags, as my students would say, suck big time. They are too thin aka cheap requiring doubling up and the wrong size for any known kitchen garbage receptacle on this earth. I wonder who bags the garbage in Mr. Russell’s home. And the claim that yellow bags inspire separating has no current evidence to support it. If it is repeated often enough, people will believe it as a self-evident truth. And a UFO was spotted landing on Alvah’s Lane last July Fourth!
GLENN July 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
It is the comply with everything people like you that makes these idiot law makers think all of there control freak stupid idea's are great! wake up we are loosing big freedoms and small ones...stop being a sheepel.
CC July 20, 2012 at 06:42 PM
It is illegal for garbage to be in anything but a plastic bag. It is illegal for leaves to be in a plastic bag. TB is considering making it illegal for grocery stores to use plastic bags. plastic bags are bad for ecology Go Green found a way to collect garbage cheaper, without plastic bags and without having the Town ship it out. TB puts Go Green out of business without a trial Are we concerned about the environment? Are we in America? Do we really need more laws?
Benja Schwartz July 24, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Where should Go Green go? Lets see...
Dawn July 25, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I am so happy Go Green Sanitation is available for residents who don't want to buy into the ludicrous idea of those ridiculous yellow bags forced on us by the bureaucratic Town of Southold. Does this mean I am not willing to recycle? HECK no! By no means have I ever lacked environmental consciousness/concern, as most of who live in this pastoral paradise. What an insult to quote stats that since the yellow bag system has gone into effect, recycling has gone up. Are the yellow bags to get the credit or the people who have recycled to get the credit? Those yellow bags should never have been yellow, but instead... red to symbolize the red herring with which the Town has attempted to dupe us with all these years. Please people... sign the petition, take a stand, call your local government to demand choices. I refuse to be owned by those flimsy, substandard, unreasonable and unwarranted bags. I would like the answer to one simple question:"If at the present time, our citizens would be recycling-conscious and eco-responsible, what is ONE GOOD REASON why the yellow bags are an absolute necessity above all else with NO OTHER CHOICES allowable to our good tax-paying people?" I have chosen "Go-Green-Sanitation" as my choice of refuse removal. If I am raped of my choice and I am left with the tyrannical directive to use those inane yellow bags, I will not stop my voice from being heard, I will not be bullied, I will do whatever it takes to get "Go-Green" back!
GLENN July 25, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Hey Dawn, It is nice to see someone awake, good going! I don't know how these out dated leaders (kings) stay so long with all the crap they throw at us " WE THE PEOPLE" I just want to shake people and say wake up. Let them take there yellow bags, smart meters, toxic light bulbs and any other stupid idea they have and stick it!


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