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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