Tags Posts tagged with "Recycling"

Recycling

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle will present a special recycling event for Town of Brookhaven residents at Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with an e-waste collection, paper shredding and drug take back. Questions? Call 451-6647.

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Recently I was in New Jersey with my former college roommates. 

We had been Zooming and planning to get together for months. The yearbook came out and we laughed over it. We tried a yoga pose to alleviate back pain, discussed the kids and uses of turmeric. 

We moved to the subject of CBD oil, and dispensaries, when “Sheila” handed us each a small, light weight, paper package.

The next day, retelling this to my 22-year-old, she surmised that, as early 80s college grads, the package likely contained something illicit. 

The envelope, however, contained compressed laundry detergent sheets. 

I was cautiously impressed. My roomie-tribe had vowed decades prior to reject plastic packing when possible. 

The envelope label read in part, “eco-friendly, cruelty-free” and “biodegradable anionic and non-anionic surfactants.”

 To this point I had used powder detergent. I buy the cardboard boxes locally and they do nicely in the outdoor fire pit when empty.

Once home, I gave my 20-year-old Kenmore a whirl. The sheets worked well in both cold and hot washes. 

My kid said they are easy to use. The thin 6 by 10-inch, lightweight envelope takes up minuscule space in the cabinet and the perforated sheets will do 60 loads. 

I foresee fewer shopping trips for me, fewer transport ships and trucks and a reduction in carbon emissions. 

The efficiency in cold water is especially important, I think. Globally, cold water is what humans have greatest access to. 

E.B. White once wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 

I suffer the same affliction. When shopping, my first thought, after “How many carbs?” is, “How big a carbon footprint?” Thus, I began deeper research. I was curious about the manufacturing process of the emerging hydrate-at-home cleaners if I am to use them. 

As a Long Islander I am not always convinced that dirt is worse than harsh chemicals. Dirt and I are not so different.

Nutrients for humans come from food directly or indirectly through plants grown in soil. If a cleaner breaks down dirt, it breaks me down on some level as well, no? 

What I found is, although all forms of laundry detergent manufacturers have, in response to consumers, removed most phosphates, other substances known to pollute the environment remain. 

With regard to packaging, most people I know are putting plastic into the recycle bin. 

A quick survey of friends in Brookhaven who use liquid detergent, revealed that half had purchased plastic laundry jugs stamped with an HDPE ‘2’ symbol. 

The other half either found no recycle number stamped on the plastic at all, which I found alarming, or, the symbol was high. Not in a good way. 

In either case, these cannot be recycled in Brookhaven. I found one of my own shampoo bottles cannot be recycled. 

Although I have found vegan laundry sheets, cleaning action and chemical ingredients seem equal.  

The choice then for me, is either heavy thermal energy use at the front-end drying process for sheets or on the back end with disposal and transport of plastic jugs. 

After discussion with the family, we are abandoning boxes of powder for laundry sheets. I will throw the envelope in the chiminea when it is empty.  

On a personal level, my goal will be to do fewer loads of laundry and wash my hair less often. You’ll likely find me in dirty jeans and a bandanna covering my hair — flashback to senior year.

Joan Nickeson is an active member of the PJS/Terryville community and community liaison to the PJS/T Chamber of Commerce.

Photo from Pixabay

The print news industry is concerned about a proposed bill by New York State.

Currently, the state Senate is working on legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). According to the bill S1185B in the Senate and S1185A in the Assembly, called the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, if passed, the act will require the producers of covered materials “to develop and implement strategies to promote recycling, reuse and recovery of packaging and paper products.”

Producers of certain waste materials will need to have an approved producer responsibility plan to sell or distribute their products, either by complying individually or joining a producer responsibility organization. The plan would have to be submitted to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for approval.

Companies of waste products such as plastic bottles and paper products will have to contribute to plan costs to compensate municipal budgets, which will transfer the cost of recycling from the municipalities to packaging and paper product producers.

In an email to community newspaper publishers, Michelle Rea, executive director of the New York Press Association, asked NYPA members to reach out to their legislators to ask that the bill be amended to remove newspapers.

“Newspaper publishers have been good stewards of the environment for decades,” Rea said in the email. “In 1989 New York’s newspaper industry entered into a voluntary agreement with the State of New York to increase their usage of recycled newsprint to 40% by the year 2000.  Recycling damages the fiber in newsprint, so a minimum of 50% new fiber is required to maintain quality. Newsprint with too little new fiber tears when the presses are running and causes the ink to blot.”

Rea added that newsprint accounts for less than 7% of solid waste, newspapers are compostable, as well as reusable, biodegradable and the ink is nontoxic.

“S1185A will not increase or improve the recycling of newspapers — it will simply shift the cost of recycling from municipalities to newspapers,” she said. “Newspapers are already suffering from revenue declines caused by COVID-19 and big tech platforms. Burdening newspapers with the cost of recycling will result in layoffs, further eroding citizen access to essential local news and information.”

According to Kaminsky, newspapers and magazines combined make up 15% of New York state curbside recycling.

“I understand that our publishing industry, especially with newspapers, is in a precarious position, and we certainly don’t want to do anything to harm their ability to get news out to the public, so these are certainly issues that we’re grappling with,” he said.

In the state Assembly the bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). He said newspapers were not included in an Assembly bill drafted last year and the concentration was on plastics which he feels is the main problem.

Englebright added that the bill is currently in the working stages and adjustments will be made before the legislation is finalized. He agreed that newspapers are already largely recycled, and the direction of the bill was to clean up the mixture of paper and plastic.

He said helping to prevent the comingling of plastic and paper is important.

“We’re just trying to put our local municipalities in a position of being able to move toward having markets again,” Englebright said. “When China closed the market [in 2018] it had a profound impact on local municipalities, but it’s also a wakeup call that we can’t just send mixed plastic and paper and different species of plastic, no less all mixed together, and expect that another country’s going to be able to make any more use of it than we can.”

Englebright added that many plastic producers use different types of plastics from polyethylene to polypropylene to polyvinyl chloride which can make recycling difficult.

“The capture of newspapers was certainly not something that was the intention of our Assembly bill drafters, and I suspect it’s the same with the Senate,” he said. “This is a process, and we’re early in the process. We are going to be refining these bills.”

Kaminsky said there is no date yet as to when the bill will be brought to the state Senate floor, and the earliest it will be is sometime in April.

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By Nancy Marr

Climate change is the most important threat we face, as one of the three greatest threats imperiling the Earth, in addition to the loss of biodiversity and global pollution. Reducing the carbon dioxide that we release into the atmosphere into the atmosphere is critical. The mantra — reduce, reuse, recycle — has become more important as incomes rise and consumption increases, particularly in urbanizing communities where local government must find ways to deal with the waste stream. 

Leftover food is a major component of landfill waste. It has been estimated that only 40% of the food that is produced is consumed, due partly to overproduction on farms and poor distribution methods. The EPA estimates that food waste comprises about 22% of our entire waste stream.

In 2022 the Food Donation and Food Scraps/Recycling Law will take effect in New York State. It will require businesses that generate an average of two tons of excess edible food per week to donate it to food banks and charities. All remaining food scraps, if the business is within 25 miles of an organics recycler, must be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill. 

One method is feeding it to an anaerobic digester, in which microorganisms break down organic materials in a closed space where there is no air (or oxygen). The material that is left over following the anaerobic digestion process, called digestate, can be made into soil amendments and fertilizers, improving soil characteristics and facilitating plant growth. 

Biogas, which is produced throughout the anaerobic digestion process, is a renewable energy source that can be used in a variety of ways, depending on its quality. Biogas treated to meet pipeline quality standards can be distributed through the natural gas pipeline and used in homes and businesses.  However, on the controversial side of this positive energy gain, remains the fact that anaerobic digesters generate an inordinate amount of methane (CH4), an enemy in our effort to combat climate change. 

Our waste stream includes packaging materials and paper goods. Bill S1185 has been introduced by Senator Todd Kaminski and it will be followed by A5801, to be introduced by Assemblyman Steve Englebright. They require producers and manufacturers to finance the recycling of their packaging materials and plastics, with incentives for finding ways of making recycling easier. Within three years of the bill’s implementation, producers will have to comply with the provisions of the bill or work with a producer responsibility organization. 

Very good news is that agronomists have found that improved soil management can reduce the carbon that is released into the atmosphere and can increase the amount of carbon that is drawn down into the soil through photosynthesis. Led by Suffolk County Cooperative Extension, many farmers are using the methods of no-till farming, cover crops, and natural fertilizers, recognizing the importance of the biodiversity of the soil. Farming can transition from a net carbon emitter to a carbon sink.

In order to reduce the amount of methane coming from landfills, New York State passed a law in 1990 that prohibited municipalities from retaining household waste in their landfills.  (Construction and yard waste and recyclables can remain.)  

In the case of Brookhaven Town, which built a landfill in 1974 in Yaphank, the waste is currently transported to a waste-to-energy facility in Hempstead for incineration. The ash by-product is then returned to Brookhaven (along with the ash from four other  municipalities) to be deposited in the Brookhaven landfill, which will be closed in 2024.  There is a question of how that ash will be stored, recycled, or disposed of. Until we can get to zero waste that question will remain. Can we do so in a timely way? Can we do so at all?

The League of Women Voters of New York State supports policies that protect food production and distribution while diverting food waste from landfills, incinerators and other waste treatment facilities. 

One thing we already know: we will only achieve zero waste conditions when everyone participates.   Look for ways to make easy changes at home – using imperfect fruits and vegetables and organizing your pantry can help reduce waste. Plan to re-use and repair your goods, recycle, and compost your food waste.  Regenerative farming methods will improve the soil in suburban gardens and lawns as well as farms.  Let your state legislators know that you support the EPR bill to require end-of-life recycling by producers.

Nancy Marr is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright. Photo from Englebright's office

In 2020, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) maintained his seat in a race against Michael Ross, a local lawyer and former Suffolk County assistant district attorney. With nearly 30 years behind him as an assemblyman, Englebright is hitting the ground running in 2021.

COVID-19

While the assemblyman has a list of priorities for 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is at the forefront of his mind. He said in a phone interview that the state’s vaccination rollout protocols need to be addressed in regard to issues such as identifying more vaccination sites, making registering easier and allowing couples to sign up together.

He added more locations should be utilized such as chain and privately owned pharmacies, local school gyms and even National Guard facilities.

“It really is held up right now by a lack of imagination and proper use of technology that’s available,” Englebright said, adding that even having people answering the state hotline would be helpful.

He noted not having enough of the COVID-19 vaccines also exacerbates the problem.

“I think there’s always little bureaucratic things that discourage people, and the object of this exercise is to vaccinate as many people as possible and achieve herd immunity and return to normal at some level,” he said. “Especially, before these new variants come in from Brazil, South Africa and London.”

Infrastructure

Englebright has been keeping his eyes on Route 347 and the Long Island Rail Road.

While roadwork on Route 347 in the Smithtown area was completed a few years ago, Englebright would like to see the road improvements continue through Port Jefferson Station. The assemblyman is making sure the completion of the roadwork is a priority.

“This is important for the operation and quality of life for the Port Jefferson Station community,” Englebright said. “If I can move it up and accelerate the improvement, I’m going to try to do that.”

Englebright is also a proponent of full electrification of the LIRR Port Jefferson line, and in 2019 was part of a press conference speaking out against the railroad purchasing more diesel engines.

He said electrification will be a “game changer,” raising the values of homes, attracting more people to use the railroad and creating less pollution.

“We’re working with late-19th century, early-20th century models for rail, and the time has long passed — we need to upgrade them,” he said.

PSEG Long Island

Englebright said a closer look is being taken at PSEGLI. Many have been disappointed with the utility company, he said. Recently, many of its top executives were pulled off of Long Island issues and sent to Puerto Rico to try to acquire big contracts for rebuilding the Caribbean island’s hurricane-ravaged electrical infrastructure.

Englebright said the Long Island Power Authority board is moving toward full municipalization of the utility company, something he has been pushing for since 1983 when he was a Suffolk County legislator.

“I’m still of the opinion that moving to full municipal ownership would give more accountability and more stability in terms of our ratepayers obligations,” he said.

Recycling

Englebright along with state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) is co-sponsoring legislation regarding recycling and creation of waste related to packaging which will extend producers’ responsibility. The goal is to boost recycling, curb waste and save tax dollars. Englebright said the responsibility of recycling packaging and paper products will shift from local governments to corporations.

Locally, it could mean that the Town of Brookhaven could extend the life of its landfill, which is slated to close in 2024 and was negatively affected when China stopped taking America’s plastic waste in 2018. The request to reduce landfill waste is one that comes from towns all over the state, according to the assemblyman.

“One-third of the waste going into the landfill is for packaging,” Englebright said. “So, if we can help extend the life, the useful life of our landfill, it will save our taxpayers millions.”

The assemblyman added that “we’ll just be more responsible if we put the responsibility for packaging onto the manufacturers.”

“If we create an incentive for the manufacturers to reduce the amount of waste and standardize the type of plastics that they use to use recyclable plastics, such as polyethylene instead of polyvinyl chloride, the work of the town becomes much, much less stressful,” he said.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

Englebright said implementing New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was passed in 2019, is a priority. The act sets to legally binding emissions reductions’ standards with the goal of eliminating dependence on fossil fuels by 2050. The act sets a goal to reduce emissions by 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. An interim target is at a 40 percent reduction by 2030. The remaining percentage of emissions will be offset by actions such as planting trees, which removes carbon dioxide out of the air, to reach net zero emissions.

An original sponsor of the legislation, Englebright is encouraged by President Joe Biden’s (D) commitment to do the same and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also being a proponent. Englebright is further encouraged by Biden moving toward incentivizing electric automobiles which was followed by General Motors announcing it’s going to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035 and move into the electric vehicle arena.

“All of that is within the framework of what we went through at the state legislative level,” Englebright said. “We had a debate basically for four years before Todd Kaminsky became the chair in the Senate and was able to move the bill.”

Restore Mother Nature Bond Act

The state’s $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act was announced in the state budget in 2020 but was pulled from the November ballots due to the pandemic’s impact on New York’s finances. Englebright said it’s important to get back to implementing the legislation which will fund critical environmental restoration projects in the state — including restoring fish and wildlife habitats, preserving open spaces and enhancing recreational opportunities and prepare New York for the impact of climate change and more.

The bond act would help advance the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Brookhaven’s Landfill Set to Close in 2024, Romaine Says a Plan is Needed Now

The Brookhaven Landfill is set to close in 2024, but while the town has put aside money towards that end, a concrete plan has yet to materialize. Photo from Google maps

About 100 people crowded into the lower level of a Melville office building Feb. 27. All were there to talk about what ends up in the trash bin. Yet, despite the dry subject matter, all knew that garbage will be the talk of Suffolk County and beyond in just a few short years.

New York State DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek-Gallagher speaks about what it will take to impact the looming garbage crisis. Photo by David Luces

The Long Island Regional Planning Council hosted a meeting about what Long Island does with its garbage and, in particular, how the region will dispose of millions of solid waste when the Town of Brookhaven landfill closes in 2024.  

The discussion brought together local elected officials, environmentalists, waste management company representatives and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, among others.  

Michael White, vice chair of the planning council, outlined the issue to attendees in a presentation. 

Currently, the Brookhaven landfill handles over 350,000 tons of ash annually from energy-from-waste facilities, in addition to handling 720,000 tons of solid waste. 

“Solid waste management is achieved through a public and private sector partnership,” White said. “Trash is either burned or exported to four energy-from-waste facilities on the island.”

The facilities in Hempstead, Huntington-Smithtown, Babylon and Islip are all operated by Covanta Energy. The Babylon location handles about 50,000 tons of waste. 

“The remainder of the residential trash is shipped off on trucks to upstate landfills,” the vice chair of the planning council said. 

White said waste from Oyster Bay, the Town of North Hempstead, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton get driven off the island.  

“We have thousands of tons of waste shipped off Long Island every day, resulting in further stress on our aging and congested highway and bridge infrastructure,” he said. “And this approach is bringing us ever-increasing costs.”

In a panel following the presentation, experts and officials discussed potential solutions and ideas to what was called a “looming crisis.”   

“The amount of waste generated on Long Island is increasing,” White said. “With the current volume at the Brookhaven landfill, that means 720,000 tons a year of waste has to find a home somewhere, and another 350,000 tons of ash from the energy from waste facilities will have to find a home somewhere.” 

Will Flower, the vice president of regional trash carting company Winters Bros., said statistics show each person produces about 4 1/2 pounds of waste a day. Each day 2,000 trucks transport waste off the island. 

An option mentioned was increasing the use of rail cars to transport solid waste. About 6,000 rail cars carry 600,000 tons of waste off the island.  

Other attendees and panelists said stakeholders need to come up with more innovative ways to handle waste. Ideas included turning ash into building materials and pulverizing recyclable glass to use in road materials. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now.”

— Ed Romaine

Flower showed a piece of landfill equipment damaged by glass as a result of it being put with other waste, adding that glass can be and should be recycled. 

Since China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by its recycling processors, a number of municipalities have altered programs and in cases have reduced or eliminated recycling. Suffolk County has recently created a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force in an effort to tackle the issue.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called for a regional effort. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now,” he said. “Either we get together as a region to resolve this and have a path forward, or this is going to be yet another thing that makes Long Island less desirable to live and work.”

The supervisor stressed that the region needs to act to find ways beyond either burning or storing waste in landfills.

“I can’t believe in 2020 that’s the only two ways to deal with waste; we need to do something now before we run out of time,” he said. 

Officials from the planning council said they plan on forming a subcommittee to look at the solid waste management crisis and asked attendees to help them develop further recommendations.

Brookhaven’s single-stream recycling facility in Yaphank. File photo by Clayton Collier

Suffolk County is looking to tackle a pressing environmental issue on Long Island with the creation of a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force. 

The legislation, sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), was passed at the end of 2019. The task force going into 2020 will lok to address the recycling burden found throughout the county. 

Hahn said towns and villages throughout the county are struggling to handle the increased recycling burden. 

“Recycling and waste management is a global problem not just a regional one,” she said. 

Since China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by its recycling processors, a number of municipalities have altered programs and in cases have reduced or eliminated recycling. 

Hahn said currently recycling in Suffolk County is handled through a patchwork of programs. 

“We need to come together to help each other, and come up with ideas and encourage other solutions,” the legislator said. 

In Brookhaven as a result of the market crash and the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling voiding its contract, the town has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside. 

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven town supervisor, said he applauds Hahn’s and others efforts to solve the current recycling issue. 

“It is a very good idea, we have to do something to solve the solid waste crisis in the near future,” he said.

Romaine said with current plans to close the landfill in 2024, and there being no market to send glass, only compounds the issue the town and municipalities face.  

“I wish the DEC would be more involved but I’m glad someone is looking into realistic solutions to this problem. We look forward to participating [in the task force],” the supervisor said. 

Similarly Smithtown was also affected by the departure of Green Stream Recycling, as it had a recycling contract with Brookhaven. Smithtown had an agreement to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a $180,000 annual profit. In January 2019, Smithtown residents were told to separate their recyclables when the town switched back to dual-stream recycling. 

Hahn, the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, plans to put together a 17-member advisory group made up of municipal recycling professionals, county agencies and environmental advocates. Members have not been officially announced and meetings are scheduled to begin sometime later this year. 

The task force’s aim would be to review existing recycling programs, develop strategies for increasing the efficiency of recycling regionally, and to develop mechanisms to encourage the streamlining of the local recycling process.  

Hahn stressed the continuation of educating the public on the benefits of recycling and reducing plastic waste in their everyday lives. 

The 5-cent minimum fee for plastic bags in stores, which took effect in January 2018, has been successful — with reports showing a 70 to 80 percent reduction in the use of the bags. Hahn also sponsored a bill that would create a plastic straw ban in restaurants that took effect last month. In addition, the Styrofoam bill bars businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene, as well as ban retail stores from selling those products. It will require businesses in the county to use biodegradable products. 

“They go hand in hand — the success has been apparent in reducing plastic waste in the county,” she said. “I’m hoping we can work with Brookhaven and other municipalities in finding a way to properly handle this and do the right thing for residents.”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Evidence of my own failure sits in plain sight on my desk. I believe in recycling, in saving the planet, in doing what’s right for me, my children and for future generations.

I readily agree that using one-time plastic pollutes the world and kills marine creatures. And yet, here, sitting on my desk, are two plastic water bottles from one-time-use plastics.

I will, of course, recycle them, but that’s not the point. Why can’t I walk the walk if I talk the talk? It’s not enough to believe in something or to nod in agreement as I read articles about conserving ecosystems, protecting biodiversity and reducing our — no, my — carbon footprint. I could and should do something about it. For example, I should use, clean and reuse the same cup, cutting back on waste.

I speak with people regularly about conservation when I write the Power of Three column for TBR News Media. Often, I ask in the context of their findings about climate change, the atmosphere or biodiversity, what kind of car they drive or how they live their lives. Interviewees sometimes chuckle anxiously, share their concerns about flying to research meetings, and sigh that they should do more. Well, maybe the better way to describe it is they should live differently.

We all think good thoughts, but those thoughts alone don’t change the world. The environment isn’t self-cleaning, the planet has limited space and finite resources, and we should look closely in the mirror at our own decisions and actions.

I read about 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who came to the United Nations and delivered an impassioned speech, challenging leaders to do more and to protect the world for her generation. The teen’s words spoke volumes, as she demanded accountability and passed judgment, from the younger generation on up, for the failings of all of us who haven’t heeded the warnings.

Despite her young age, she has walked the walk. She traveled by boat to the United Nations in New York aboard a zero-emission yacht because she refuses to use a mode of transportation — flying — that emits carbon dioxide. She also went to Davos, Switzerland, for 32 hours aboard a train, again limiting her contribution to fossil fuel emissions. Each of those options might not be practical for many people, but they show her commitment and passion.

We live with a predicament: We see and acknowledge what we believe are our principles, and then we take actions that at times conflict with those beliefs.

That extends beyond the world of climate change and conservation. We often have a chance to see the disconnect between what we say and what we do when our children — or someone else’s children — point them out to us. We don’t want our children texting while they’re driving and yet they sit next to us or in the backseat and see us connecting through our phones with work colleagues or with people waiting to meet us for dinner.

It is also why any kind of poll isn’t completely accurate. We might say one thing, but do the opposite for a host of reasons, including not wanting to tell a cheerful stranger on the other end of the phone what we intend to do.

We recognize the importance of supporting ideas. The challenge, however, comes when we have the chance to choose between the easier option — a plastic bottle of cold water — or the one that supports our beliefs.

When we see our failures of principle, the question is: What are we going to do about it?

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) discusses local issues with Three Village Civic Association members. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Residents filled the community room in the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library June 3 as the Three Village Civic Association hosted a conversation with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) on all things townwide. Residents and Romaine were given the opportunity to discuss the latest issues impacting the Three Village area and beyond.

Here are some important topics Romaine brought up during the conversation.

Route 25A corridor study

The town is conducting a two-phase study, starting from the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The second phase of the project will focus on the rest of Route 25A to the Poquott line. The origins of the study date back to 2016.

“That, to me, is a very crucial thing as it sets the future of this town — I would like to see more urgency in it,” he said. “I feel like it has lagged.”

The Brookhaven supervisor said he believes one of the reasons for the holdup is that the county is currently doing a retail study on the area.

“I haven’t seen the study but people who have seen it have told me that the study will conclude that this area is under-retailed,” he said. “I’m no expert but I believe we are over-retailed, I think we have enough and don’t need additional retail development.”

Romaine said the corridor study is very important and urged residents to be involved in the process. He also brought up zoning concerns.

“One thing I learned during my time as a supervisor is that zonings are forever,” he said. “Once you zone something, you can’t take it away.”

Romaine hopes that the corridor study will get done by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

Smithtown Gyrodyne development

Romaine expressed concern with the proposed development of the 62-acre Flowerfield property, owned by Gyrodyne LLC and adjoining Route 25A in St. James, which is in the Town of Smithtown.

“I am opposed to the development that would have any interconnection to any roads that would lead to Stony Brook Road,” he said. “We do not need any additional traffic on Stony Brook Road at all. If it connects to Stony Brook Road, it would be a disaster.”

“I don’t want to see it overdeveloped, Romaine added.

Similarly, on the topic of traffic on Stony Brook Road, he said that he proposed the need for a turning lane on Oxhead Road so university students can make a left turn onto Nicolls Road. Also, he has proposed to the county to develop a third lane from Route 347 to the Stony Brook campus to alleviate traffic jams.

Stony Brook University housing

Romaine said he still had a few issues with the university regarding student housing. One idea he proposed was the school could require all non-commuter students who are freshmen to be mandated to live on campus.

“We have a lot of students who are coming from other countries,” he said. “They may be having their first experiences in this country here.”

The other issue he touched on is rooming houses, which he said are illegal in the Town of Brookhaven.

“We have spent a lot of time in the past trying to crack down on these houses,” he said.

Romaine said these owners have sometimes put up to eight or 10 students in these houses.

“A lot of times we shut these houses down — it goes empty in the summertime and then back in the fall it gets filled up again,” he said. “I hope the next university president will have a stricter policy when it comes to rentals.”

Proposed passive park

Recently, the Town of Brookhaven approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels which includes an old derelict building on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road on Route 25A. The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open-space passive park.

Recycling

Residents were wondering what the town is doing to tackle the issue of recycling.

“The recycling market collapsed last year when China stopped accepting 95 percent of recycled products,” Romaine said.

The supervisor said they have looked at a few options, but nobody wanted what they had. The town had to reevaluate its recycling program and see what still had value.

“We went back to dual stream and ended glass pickup because there really hasn’t ever been a true market for glass,” he said.

Romaine mentioned the town had found a potential suitor in New Jersey that would take some of the collected glass and use it as an industrial abrasive.

The Brookhaven supervisor said he would be open to discussing the recycling topic in more detail at a future meeting.

Graphic by TBR News Media

By Sara-Megan Walsh and Kyle Barr

The three North Shore towns of Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown are grappling with how to best recycle in 2019 after Brookhaven’s facility ground to a halt in October 2018. 

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August 2018. Brookhaven has since returned to dual stream recycling. Photo from Town of Smithtown

In that month, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor Green Stream Recycling prematurely terminated its 25-year agreement to operate the town’s recycling plant in Yaphank. The announcement came as collected recyclables piled up like mountains outside the Yaphank facility as China’s new National Sword policy took effect, implemented in January 2018, which set strict contamination limits on recyclable materials it would accept. Up until then, China had been the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, and now local towns had to scramble to find a new market to sell to.

All three towns solicited bids from recycling companies in the hopes of finding the most efficient and green solution for its residents. 

The result is Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown have all taken slightly different approaches based on what services they’ve been offered. Residents have been puzzled by new recycling schedules, as the townships are still attempting to explain what has changed with their recycling and how it will impact the future.

Brookhaven

Once the bottom of the recycling market fell out from China’s decision, Brookhaven was caught directly in the storm that followed, with the Green Stream facility being the center of multiple towns’ recycling efforts.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable,” said Christopher Andrade, the town’s recycling commissioner. “[China] went down from 5 percent contamination to 0.5 percent. It wasn’t the equipment that caused the problem, it was the standard that caused the problem.”

At the Jan. 17 Brookhaven Town Board meeting, council members unanimously voted to sign a $760,000 contract with West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to take their materials to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. 

The new standards mean Brookhaven residents can only put out the most common No. 1 and 2 plastics, which are collected together with aluminum such as food cans. Paper products are collected separately. The town asked that any unclean paper products such as used pizza boxes be thrown out with regular trash instead. Glass is no longer being picked curbside by the town, and instead can be placed at one of seven drop-off points located around the town.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable.”

— Chris Andrade

To advertise these changes, Brookhaven took out newspapers ads and broadcasted the changes on radio, television and social media at the tail end of 2018. The town is planning another media blitz for 2019, including another mailer to all residents along with additional newspaper and radio ads. The annual mailer sent to Brookhaven residents, which includes information about the new recycling system, costs $30,000. Otherwise the town has spent approximately $12,000 on newspaper ads and roughly $10,000 on radio ads so far. Andrade said the town is continuing to advertise the changes.

Further changes to Brookhaven’s recycling system could again appear on the horizon. Matt Miner, chief of operations, said the town is looking for means of getting its recycling facility restarted, though this would require a new contractor to partner with Brookhaven. 

Andrade said he hopes to have the facility running again before the six-month contract with Smithtown is up. In addition, the recycling commissioner said he is awaiting news of the current litigation between the town and Green Stream over the voided contract.

For now, Brookhaven is sticking with dual stream, as officials said single-stream recycling resulted in a worse quality product that at this point was near impossible to sell.

For more information on recycling, visit Brookhaven’s video on recycling.

Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown opted to take a unique approach to dual-stream recycling by taking on two different contracts in hopes of getting their best payout for recycled materials. 

In December, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) signed a six-month contract with Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to pick up all collected paper and cardboard recycling in exchange for paying the town $30 per ton. These collections are expected to net Smithtown approximately $177,000 per year, if they choose to extend the contract. 

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

The town entered a separate contract with Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, which will take unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, limited to plastics Nos. 1 and 2, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, at a total cost of approximately $104,000 per year. 

Overall, the combination of two contracts along with money received from Brookhaven for shipping their recyclables for pickup, will net the town approximately $178,500 per year in total, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Residents who wish to recycle their glass bottles and containers can drop off materials at three locations throughout town: Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park, Town Hall and the Highway Department building on Route 347 in Nesconset.  

Smithtown Town Board has budgeted $16,000 for its public campaign regarding the return to dual-stream, the least of any township but also with the smallest population to reach. Garguilo said many of the graphics and printed materials have been designed in-house, which has helped save money. She added that the supervisor and town officials will be speaking with senior citizen groups and community associations throughout early 2019 to help re-educate residents who may not be technologically savvy. 

For more information on recycling, go to Smithtown’s video on the subject.

Huntington 

After the Yaphank plant’s closure, the Town of Huntington signed a two-year contract with Omni Recycling of Babylon returning to a dual-stream process with papers and cardboard being collected on alternate weeks from plastics, aluminum and glass. The town’s total recycling costs will depend on how well the town can re-educate residents and their compliance, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

“The only vendors continuing single-stream recycling would have trucked it off Long Island at a cost of $120 to $135 a ton,” he said. “It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.” 

“It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci said to stick with a single-stream process would have cost the town approximately $1.7 million to $2 million a year based on bids received from contractors. As such, the town decided to move to a dual-stream process where its costs will be determined by how much of the collected material is clean enough to be repurposed. The town will receive $15 per ton of recyclable papers and cardboard delivered to Omni Recycling, and be billed $78 per contaminated ton as determined by the facility. 

“We require lids and covers on the recycling bins to reduce contamination from dirt and moisture,” the supervisor said. “Soiled and moldy paper are not recyclable.” 

The Town of Huntington expects to collect 900,000 tons of paper and cardboard from its residents. Assuming that 80 percent will be clean enough to recycle, Lupinacci said the town will wind up paying out approximately $32,000 for its paper goods. 

Unlike Brookhaven and Smithtown, Huntington town residents can continue to put all plastics, Nos. 1 through 7, and glass bottles out for curbside pickup. Based on an average of 550,000 tons collected annually, the town will pay $75 a ton, at a cost of $412,500 a year, to recycle these materials. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The Town of Huntington has set aside nearly $86,000 in 2019 — more than Brookhaven and Smithtown combined — to educate its residents about the return to dual stream. According to Huntington’s website, dual-stream recycling is the collection of bottles, cans and plastics one week, with paper and corrugated cardboard the following week. Half that budget will be paid by a grant obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Lupinacci. To date, the town has spent $1,000 on social media ads and roughly $43,000 on printed materials including direct mailers and calendars. 

The supervisor said it seems to be paying off. 

“Omni-Westbury, [which] does our collection, said the quality of our first week’s recyclables was better than expected,” Lupinacci said. 

The first collection of papers and cardboard in January yielded 104 tons, only 10 percent of which was considered contaminated, according to the supervisor. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks,” he said. 

For more information on recycling, watch Huntington’s video on recycling.

Glass: Is it worth collecting? 

Glass is a product many town officials have found difficult to sell, as there’s not much market for it.

Brookhaven and Smithtown are no longer accepting it as part of curbside pickup, but rather asking their residents to bring glass bottles to various drop-off locations. Collections at these locations has increased, according to Miner, and Brookhaven Town has installed larger containers to meet that demand.

To date, Brookhaven has sent two pilot shipments with Jersey City-based Pace Glass Recycling, and Miner said the town is looking to set up some sort of long-term contract.  Andrade said the town is not currently making money from sending the glass to Pace, but the only costs incurred are from the town employees hauling the product up to New Jersey.

“This is actually a recycling of the glass, which most of the towns on Long Island have not been able to achieve,” Miner said.

Andrade added there is a chance Brookhaven could land a deal with the New
Jersey-based company.

“You have to establish relationships, so we’re still in the beginning of the dance there,” the recycling commissioner said. “They’re taking a look at the quality of our material … they’re liking the material so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Smithtown elected officials renewed a prior inter-municipal agreement with Brookhaven at their Jan. 24 meeting, agreeing to ship the town’s collected glass to their neighbor for processing.