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Southold Town Yellow Garbage Bags Mandated for All Residents, Carters

Town Board members say that 20-year system is still most effective way to comply with state mandated recycling criteria, though businesses remain exempt from the law.

Though the yellow garbage bag system might not be the most popular amongst Southold Town residents, it is the most cost effective method for the Town to manage solid waste disposal at the longstanding Cutchogue solid waste facility and is the best way the Town has to comply with New York State mandated recycling goals, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

Russell and members of the Southold Town Board held a special meeting at Town Hall Thursday night to explain the state mandates and breakdown what actually happens at the solid waste management facility. A slideshow 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 (see the full presentation attached to this article).

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.

“And that recycling rate is a direct result of the pay-as-you-throw yellow bag system,” Russell told an audience of about 30 people Thursday night.

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. The Town took legal steps to stop Riverhead-based private carter Go-Green Sanitation 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 issued violations earlier this year for picking up residential refuse that was not in as is required by the Town. In July, the Town lifted a restraining order and allowed Go-Green to get back to business as usual — but on Nov. 23, all residents will be required to packed up their garbage in yellow bags, and private carters cannot pick up any garbage from their residential customers in Southold Town unless they use the yellow bags, the supervisor said.

Russell acknowledged that the yellow bags are not biodegradable, but that biodegradable bags would not be of the same quality and would “serve no purpose here.”

“Yes, we are adding the bag to the waste stream, but that waste stream has been reduced by using the bag,” Russell said. “We can no longer afford to operate a landfill here — we ship much of our garbage out of town to be incinerated, and the use of the yellow bag forces people to reduce what they throw out.”

Russell, addressing the issue of the cost of each yellow bag, added that residents are not only purchasing a bag from the Town — they are also helping to pay for a system that carts the garbage away.

“I know how it can seem costly, but we’re a community that has proven we can control costs by being diligent about keeping our garbage to a minimum — we have a very Yankee spirit here,” Russell said.

Mattituck resident John Fletcher said he didn’t buy Russell’s argument, saying that the yellow bag system puts too much of a burden on residents instead of businesses and commercial ventures that are currently exempt from the yellow bag law.

“We’re paying at least $3.50 for these bags, that's some big bucks for something as simple as garbage here,” he said. “And it is just garbage, we’re not talking about invading Omaha Beach here — it’s crazy how complicated you’re making it and as a resident, I feel I’m getting screwed. I work at the hospital — why doesn’t a big commercial operation like the hospital have to use yellow bags? Do you know how much they throw out into these huge dumpsters that aren’t even from around here? I have to live with the yellow bag rule — why doesn’t everyone have to?”

Russell said that businesses pay a premium for waste that is brought into the solid waste facility over the scales and that he and board members are working to encourage businesses and larger-scale commercial operations to embrace recycling at the local solid waste facility.

“Reducing and recycling are in everyone’s best interests,” Russell said. “Garbage on Long Island has to be addressed collectively for long-term solutions, but for the time being here locally, the yellow bag system works and there is no other option right now. We have a law and we have to honor it.”

scott russell November 19, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I am sorry. I didn't go anywhere. I simply do not have the time to monitor this site as much as you would like. I gave you answers and you do not accept them. To clarify, yes the state law does not specifically require use of yellow bags. It did, however, require that towns enforce recycling. The town elected to go to a volume based pay as you throw system known as the yellow bag. That was part of our required solid waste management plan that was approved by New York State (1995). The State expects us to enforce that system. I know you do not want the facts to get in way of this discussion, however, based on our recycling rates, the system works. We discussed other options with the DEC and that agency made it clear that we would not be able to simply do away with that management plan. By the way, all carters including yours, are able to take garbage placed in yellow bags and recyclables to the transfer station for free. Where is the protectionism in that? Any carter who was bringing in garbage that was not in yellow bags as you allege would pay a premium to bring it over the scales (cost based on weight). You could have come to the public meeting to discuss this and should feel free to come to any future board meeting to express your thoughts.
not a farmer November 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
SCOTT RUSSELL, I strongly suggest you go spend some time at the transfer station. its obvious you have never been ther based on your comments. STOP DEFLECTING. Yes the state wants you to enforce "a management plan". THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO ENFORCE YELLOW BAGS. ITS A TAX. at least come clean and stop the silly lies. THIS IS A FEE YOU AND YOUR BOARD HAVE DECIDED TO IMPOSE ON THE RESIDENTS. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RECYCLING OR WITH NY State. ARE SO WEAK ON THIS THAT YOU CANT OWN THAT FACT? TRY BEING HONEST. YOU WONT LOOK SO RIDICULOUS IF YOU DO.
Donna Hagzan November 21, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I do not believe the yellow bags make people recycle. Why can't we have a seperate pail like Riverhead and Brookhaven Town. It is very difficult to haul garbage to the dump for elderly residents as well as for people who work and cannot get to the dump. The other Towns have garbage pick-up twice a week. We have to get a permit to go to the dump and buy expensive yellow bags to put my white garbage bag in to dispose of it. The yellow bags are not biodegradable so how does that help? It is nothing but another way for the town to make money and has nothing to do with recycling.
JJ November 21, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Folks used to tell me that the Yellow bags were 'fair' because those who used the dump more should pay more. Well Go-Green, my carter, doesn't use your dump AT ALL. So why should I pay for bags that the dump my carter DOES USE, DOESN'T require. It's extortion, plain and simple.How 'bout you cut back on buying farmland rights, and other goodies, instead of pulling tricks like this?
BOB PALADIN November 29, 2012 at 02:48 AM
just another reason why i will probably leave and take my biz to another town on the Island . and we spend a lot here at delis restaurants, wineries at our church , feeding the poor , groceries on love land[ not the kitchen yuck] gas for the trucks etc.. cant get safe roads, cant get the bridge repaired, watch the hgwy dept trip all over themselves picking up useless leaves wasting manpower and equipment,pay yellow bag extortion,.. i would stay and run for a seat but i cant afford a pay cut

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