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Trash

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A trash can outside a home in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Many Port Jefferson village residents woke up one morning at the end of January to find their garbage would be taken by a different contractor.

In a letter dated Jan. 28 sent to all Port Jeff residents signed up with them, Ronkonkoma-based Quick-Way Sanitation Corp. said it would no longer be servicing the village and, as of Feb. 1, its contracts would move over to Yaphank-based Maggio Sanitation.

“Since garbage facilities have been raising dump fees on a monthly basis, we are no longer able to offer our current price and would have to raise residents [sic] astronomically,” read the letter signed by President of Quick-Way Joseph Litterello.

A representative from Quick-Way said they had no additional comment.

Residents then received an additional letter from Maggio dated Feb. 1 saying their company would be servicing their account, and they would provide residents with two new garbage totes, one for trash and one for recycling, within the next eight to 10 weeks.

On a post of the Unofficial Port Jeff Villagers Facebook group Feb. 3 village Mayor Margot Garant said she was not notified by the company about the change. She said in additional posts the changeover did not have anything to do with the village government in particular.

“Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

— Joe Colucci

Joe Colucci, the president of Middle-Island-based Colucci Carting, posted to the unofficial Port Jeff Facebook page Feb. 10 saying that if 500 residents call with interest, he would expand his operation to include residential garbage pickup, though during a phone interview he said he is also considering if 300 residents show interest he will provide services to the village. So far, Colucci said he has received about 30 calls over the weekend. Pricing for garbage pickup would be $35 per month and $70 bimonthly.

“It’s got to be beneficial for me to go in,” he said.

Colucci said he was curious why Quick-Way didn’t simply raise its fees instead of ending service, though he has seen the cost of carting garbage increase for several decades.

“The cost to dump garbage has [gone] up significantly, almost $100 a ton to get it out of the Island,” he said. “Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

According to the official Port Jefferson Facebook page, there are eight sanitation companies currently allowed to operate in the village, still including Quick-Way, Maggio and Colucci Carting, as well as Islandia-based Jet Sanitation Services, Bay Shore-based National Waste Services, Holbrook-based Superior Waste Services of New York, Brentwood-based V. Garofalo Carting and Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island. Some of these companies have, for the most part, only serviced local businesses or provide dumpsters.

Town of Brookhaven residents pay an annual fee for their garbage and recycling pickup, but since Port Jeff village is an incorporated government, it has operated on different rules, asking residents to set up their own garbage carting contracts.

The official Port Jeff Facebook post also said any company can apply to operate in the village with a one-year license, first by providing the village with a $2,500 bond payment, provide proof of liability, property and workmen’s compensation insurance, and by paying a processing fee of $50 plus $10 per truck operating within the village.

From left, John Clark, Scott Schneider, and Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth kick off Pick Six Jan. 24. Photo by Karina Gerry

By Karina Gerry

A Town of Huntington official is asking Huntington’s residents to try to see the small actions can add up.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) unveiled Jan. 24 a new non-litter initiative he calls Pick Six that asks  residents to pick up six pieces of trash every day and throw it in the trash at Huntington Town Hall.

“Together, we can make our town cleaner,” Smyth said.  “And a more environmentally friendly place to live work and do business.”

The program was inspired by Huntington resident Scott Schneider, an artist who for years has been collecting trash on his daily walks and turning them into art.

‘Well what difference can I make,’ but now that it’s being rolled out to the whole town, you really see that small acts can turn into bigger ones.”

— Scott Schneider

“I always picked up trash,” he said. “I started taking pictures of trash and then when Instagram and Facebook came on, I started posting it and people seemed to really enjoy my trash pictures or my trashy pictures.”

The councilman saw Schneider’s art as the two have known each other prior to Smyth being elected to office  through their children. It sparked a conversation  about Schneider’s daily habit.  A few weeks later, the Smyth contacted the artist to let him know that he would be rolling out a new initiative for the whole town inspired by Schneider’s work.

“As somebody who was kind of always working on my own, it was extremely exciting,” the artist said. “Because you always think, ‘Well what difference can I make,’ but now that it’s being rolled out to the whole town, you really see that small acts can turn into bigger ones.”

Smyth and his colleagues hope the initiative of Pick Six will become habitual for residents.

“What I see with my own eyes, and I think everybody does, is that there’s a lot of litter around,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten to the point now that we’re so accustomed to seeing it that we stop seeing it, stop noticing it, so it’s easy to ignore it and walk past it.”

While downtown Huntington area sees the most pedestrian foot traffic, the councilman wants to encourage people to not only pick up trash when they are in the village but at the town’s beaches and parks as well. Greg Wagner, Huntington’s director of Parks and Recreation,  believes the program could make a huge difference.

“Typically, every morning at all of our beaches there are single-use plastics constantly, consistently washing up on our shores,” Wagner said.

There seems to be unnecessary finger pointing going on where people say, ‘Oh well they should go clean it up.”

— Councilman Ed Smyth

Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District and owner of Christopher’s Pub & Eatery, said the issue of trash has been something him and the BID have been dealing with for a while.

“The problem you have with some businesses is that you have absentee business owners, a lot of corporate places that you go in to speak to the management as soon as they clock out they are done for the day,” Palladino said. “But you have businesses that people have owned they live in town, they are the ones that are concerned.”

While restaurants, bars and places offering takeout food tend to produce more trash, the councilman refused to point fingers.

“There seems to be unnecessary finger pointing going on where people say, ‘Oh well they should go clean it up,’” Smyth said. “There’s always a pronoun in there that’s not I, always they or he or she.”

The councilman hopes that people will stop blaming the businesses for the trash.

“For the downtown areas, it has to be a collective effort,” he said. “Or it’s just not going to work, because very frankly the town, the BID and the businesses don’t have the resources individually to have someone on litter control.

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

With bids in for the Town of Smithtown recycling contract, town officials have a big decision to make that may change how and when residents take their bins to the curb.

“Perhaps there’s a market for it — perhaps these bidders have a place where they can bring it,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said prior to the opening of the bids.

The Town of Smithtown has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, the Town of Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among other local municipalities, had an agreement with Brookhaven to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a profit. Now, Smithtown has been left without a recycling contract and has been dumping all its recyclables at the Municipal Services Facility located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The facility has approximately two-to-three weeks before it is full to capacity.

You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream…”

— Ed Wehrheim

The town unsealed four bids for its recyclable materials Nov. 8. Two bids, received from West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island and Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, offered both single-stream recycling and dual-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling is the process of taking all recyclables in a single can and everything would be sorted at a facility. Dual stream requires residents to sort out different types of recyclables, including different kinds of plastics, metals and papers, and putting out each kind of material on different days of the week for collection.

Smithtown officials estimate the town picks up 11,500 tons of recyclables each year. If the town wants to stick with a single-stream recycling process, it may cost close to $1 million to send these materials off for processing. This would be a major difference compared to the small $180,000 in profit it made in annual revenue selling its recyclables to Brookhaven.

Bids received for dual-stream recycling, including both Winter Bros. and Trinity Transportation, propose rates the companies would be willing to pay for each specific product. For example, Trinity would pay the town $68 a ton for its newspaper and cardboard.

Joseph Kostecki, the town’s purchasing director, unseals bids received for the town’s recycling contract Nov. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town calculated it would collect approximately 6,500 tons of paper and 1,900 tons of metal, plastic and glass combined from residents if households were required to sort their own recycling.

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, said one of the options Smithtown is considering is taking glass off the list of curbside materials and setting up a specialized locations where residents can drop off their glass products.

Recycled glass is a major bane for Patricia DiMatteo, owner of Trinity Transportation. She said that recyclable products can easily become contaminated, especially with glass, when collected in a single can. In particular paper, her company’s specialty, becomes easily contaminated by fine pieces of glass crushed so small they’re barely visible to the naked eye, making the product unsellable.

Wehrheim said he doesn’t expect residents to continue recycling at the rate they have under the single-stream process if the town reverts to dual stream.

“You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream and tell people, ‘Now, you’re going to have go back to the two pails, sort your metal and sort your paper,’” he said. “I think what you’ll see is you’ll lose a large percentage of your recycling.”

While Barnett agreed losing single-stream recycling could result in less participation, he added that changing back to dual stream could improve the overall quality of the product collected, raising its market desirability.

“There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

—Patricia DiMatteo

Smithtown began its single-stream process in 2014 when it signed a contract with Brookhaven and the Green Stream facility. Previously, the town had used its own dual-stream recycling processing facility. Barnett said the town is internally discussing bringing that facility back online, but that site was mothballed in 2014. Since then, the facility has aged without use and would require revitalization. In addition, all the town employees who once worked at the facility — 12 in total — have been reassigned to other departments or no longer work for the town.

To make the facility operational would require hiring multiple new employees, which means weighing the costs of salaries and benefits into the price of reopening, according to Wehrheim. Barnett said the town is still calculating the total cost of restarting the plant.

Recycling has been an ongoing issue for Long Island municipalities since the China market, one of the world’s largest importers of recyclables, severely restricted the quality of material it would import. This policy, named National Sword, started in January and its effects have stung local townships hard as of late, but DiMatteo said there are other markets if one knows where to look.

“There is definitely an issue with the China market, no doubt, you have to make a pristine product for them now,” she said. “There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

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When done drinking a bottled water or soda, we usually make a conscious effort to get it into a recycling bin. No further thought given, our good deed is done. We’ve recycled the plastic bottle rather than throwing it out to sit in a landfill.

The photos released that clearly show the Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling facility was nearly buried in mountains of collected recyclables from the residents of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington townships this August are shocking. It should serve as an alarming wake-up call.

This is a direct result of China implementing its National Sword policy to ban the import of recycled plastics. The visual impact of recyclables piling up like trash, and learning some items are now being sent to the landfill, have led us to the conclusion this is an issue that requires careful thought and attention.

We, and we’re sure many of our readers, have lived with the presumption our recycled plastic bottles, aluminum cans and used paper were sorted, cleaned and reformed into reusable materials locally. However, we were blissfully unaware that China imported nearly half of the world’s recyclables to turn into raw goods through its manufacturing economy.

Now, with changing international trade policy, shipping our recyclables — or honestly, still household garbage — halfway around the world is no longer an option. Suffolk County’s townships are struggling to figure out a new way to handle the piles of debris. Finding a new market for these recycled raw materials will pose an obvious challenge. Striking a balance of recycling items beneficial from a fiscal and economic viewpoint while weighing environmental impact is a challenge on the horizon as well.

One of Brookhaven’s recycling staff suggested Suffolk residents need to be more discerning. Get back to the basics of checking plastic bottles for a number inside a triangular arrow on the bottom and rinse all containers out first. It will help improve the value of the recycled material we are trying to sell in a drastically reduced global market.

It’s a good first step. But we need take it one step further.

The most direct way we, as individuals, can help provide a solution to the problem is to cut back on our dependency on one-time use items. It’s been said for years, but we truly need to start regularly grabbing a refillable water bottle rather than a disposable. Think about taking up the “hipster” trend of using Mason jars to store food. Go back to old-fashioned, but traditional Pyrex to store leftovers instead of limited-use thin plastic containers.

These small changes may seem hard at first, but we have proof it’s possible. Sure, every Suffolk resident balked at the idea of paying 5 cents for a plastic bag at retail stores when the policy was implemented in January. In less than a year, it’s seemed to have had a dramatic effect in changing behaviors. Many shoppers now simply carry their own reusable canvas and plastic bags.

Permanent change is necessary if we don’t want to be buried up to our necks in trash on Long Island. Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) has predicted a “garbage crisis” within the next seven to eight years as Brookhaven looks to close its landfill. Let’s be part of the solution, and not the problem. Let’s focus on using reusable products, not recyclable or disposable.

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Town officials trying to plan for Brookhaven landfill’s closure, evaluate potential odor issue and site locations

Power Crush, Inc. is located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to find a fertile concept for budding plans to build an organic waste processing facility, one that town officials hope might mitigate a potential Long Island trash crisis.

“We are looking in that direction as well as a number of other directions because there will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“…[T]here will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes.

— Ed Wehrheim

The town received $187,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency to undertake a study starting in 2015 on the impacts of indoor organic waste processing facilities, one that takes items like food waste and grass clippings and turns it into compost. Wehrheim said many Suffolk County municipalities are creating contingency plans should the Town of Brookhaven’s plans to close its landfill come to fruition. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has said it could close in less than a decade.

Suffern-based SCS Engineers partnered with Smithtown officials to release the draft study Sept. 13 with the intention to draft a zoning ordinance that would allow for its construction.  Town code does not currently allow for any composting or organic waste facility.

“This is a scoping meeting to look at all the aspects of it and, at some point, the town board will make a decision whether or not we want to have the use of a facility like that put into the town code,” Wehrheim said. “We’re just trying to get out in front of it now so that eight or nine years down the road we will have a remedy for it to take care of our solid waste.”

Wehrheim said one location the town is considering using is Power Crush Inc. gravel supplier on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The property’s owner, Toby Carlson, presentedthe town board with a conceptual plan for constructing such a facility in 2014.

The 280-page report suggests a number of sites for the plant. These include: the northwestern corner of Commack and southwestern corner of Kings Park, adjacent to Sunken Meadow State Parkway; the east side of Commack along Route 25/Jericho Turnpike; the southern side of Kings Park; and the southwestern corner of St. James.

There are a number of potential environmental and quality-of-life hazards stemming from indoor organic waste processing facilities, according to the draft study, including odor, groundwater impacts, air emissions, traffic and dust.

These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.” 

— Gregory McCarron

In an internet-based survey of 28 facilities as part of the town’s study, half of the plants had received odor complaints, 11 percent noise complaints, 7 percent cited dust objections and 4 percent alleged traffic grievances. Yet, a nearly equal number of facilities said they had not received any such complaints from the local populace. Another 11 percent refused to provide any details about any complaints.

“All these facilities don’t want these problems, they don’t want unexpected events,” Gregory McCarron, the vice president of SCS Engineers, said. “These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.”

To try to mitigate  complaints and accidents, organic waste facilities have a number of management practices they employ. These may include building and maintaining vegetable buffers to allay dust issues or scheduling deliveries to lessen traffic issues.

Nearly half of the indoor organic waste processing facilities that responded to Smithtown’s survey said they use some type of air treatment system. In addition, 81 percent reported they have specific facility design-related methods to reduce odor.

“The [best management practices] are certainly effective in mitigating, at least to some extent, those impacts,” Allyson Murray, an environmental planner for Smithtown, said.

In the course of the study, Murray visited three organic waste processing facilities in North America. The most modern facility she visited was in Toronto, Canada, which operated as an  anaerobic digester. Typical composting is aerobic, meaning it uses bacteria that require air to help break down the organic waste. Modern anaerobic composting uses airless containers in both wet and dry environments. Murray said she smelled very little odor on location and the noise was kept to a minimum.

We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.” 

— Adrienne Esposito

“It’s a different kind of technology — the kinds of impacts are of a different kind,” Murray said.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Organization, attended a Sept. 13 meeting held at Smithtown Town Hall to inform local civic groups about the potential organic waste facility. She said that because the idea is still in its early stages she will keep Kings Park residents up to date on any potential hazards.

“Our mission is to look out for the people in our community,” Henninger said. “We’re continuing to educate ourselves on the issue.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, questioned why there are not larger conversations happening on the county or state level to determine just how many facilities Long Island requires and where would be the best location for one.

“In the next few years, every person on Long Island will have to know where our garbage goes,” she said. “We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.”

Murray said the town plans to release the final version of the survey by the end of 2018.

Huntington Town, Northport Village to participate in Clean Beaches Day

Clean Beaches Day kicks off in Huntington Town and Northport Village this weekend. File photo

This weekend, Huntington Town residents will get the chance to roll up their sleeves and clean up their favorite beaches.

Clean Beaches Day is set for Saturday, June 6. Huntington Town and Northport Village co-sponsor the event, which will feature cleanups at Centerport, Crab Meadow, Gold Start Battalion, Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

In an interview this week, Northport Village Mayor George Doll said he is calling on volunteers to participate in the festivities. A commercial fisherman by trade, Doll said the event is important to him and he’s been participating for several years.

“I do it because not only am I interested in the environment, but I make a living off of fish that are pretty much a natural resource,” he said. “And it’s just a way of doing something to help keep it clean.”

Those who participate in Northport will get the chance to visit Bird Island, a bird sanctuary that doesn’t get a lot of visitors, Doll said. The island was created in the 1960s with dredge spoils, and the site eventually became home to a number of birds including Canadian geese, swans and ospreys, he said.

Volunteers will get the option of registering for a cleanup at Centerport, Crab Meadow or Gold Star Battalion beaches, according to a press release from Councilwoman Susan Berland’s (D) office. Also, volunteers can register to be a part of the Clean Beaches Bus Tour, which will take them to Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

One kickoff for the event will be at 8:15 a.m. at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can enjoy breakfast before the cleanup. The bus tour leaves Centerport Beach at 9 a.m. After the cleanup, at noon, a luncheon will be held at the pavilion at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can relax and enjoy refreshments.

Doll said volunteers would also be meeting up in Northport at 8:30 a.m. at the Village Dock, where they’ll be served a continental breakfast courtesy of Tim’s Shipwreck Diner. Cleanup will start at 9 a.m.

Visit the town’s website for more information on Clean Beaches Day or contact Fran Evans at 631-351-3018.

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