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Recycling

Romaine discussed ways in which local government and New York State must adapt to meet the needs of a changing environment. File photo

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has served in elected office for decades. In Part I of this two-part series, Romaine discusses the problem of coastal erosion, innovative ideas for recycling and why you won’t see his name on a sign at a town park.

What sparked your interest in environmental protection and which issues concern you the most?

Long ago, I made a choice between my eyes and my ears, and I chose my eyes. People can argue whatever they want, but I’ve seen what this Island was. I grew up on Long Island. I’ve watched it change and I know what it needs.

The things that concern me about this Island are the threat of climate change and rising sea levels, which is why we’ve bought hundreds of acres at Mastic Beach — to convert them back to wetlands, to act as a sponge.

The week before I was elected in 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit. I went down to Mastic Beach, which was part of my original district in the ’80s. I knew the mayor and I went down with Dan Panico [R-Manorville], who was the councilman, and we took a tour.

Neighborhood Road is the road that runs east and west through Mastic Beach. Everything south of Neighborhood Road was flooded. And the other thing I remember about that disaster was the smell. With all the trees and the downed wires sparking, it smelled of sewage because all their cesspools were inundated, and it smelled of oil because they all had above-ground tanks that spilled over.

It was so devastating when I went down there. Mastic Beach has recovered since, but I will never forget the disaster that hurricane caused and the flooding that it unleashed. Marshlands act as sponges that are capable of handling a flood like that. That is why I am deeply invested in trying to buy up as much of the marshland that was built upon years ago and get rid of some of the small homes there.

The other concern is the carbon footprint we leave. I’m a big supporter of renewable energy. When I was a [county] legislator for the 1st District, I bought more land and preserved more farmland than the other 17 districts combined.

The pattern of development has been so intense that we’ve screwed up this Island by sprawl. We should have thought more carefully about the pattern of development here and what we could do in terms of public transport, in terms of public services — and we didn’t.

What is your preferred approach to the issue of eroding bluffs, a growing problem along the North Shore?

Sometimes people live along those bluffs, so you want to see what type of engineering solutions there are to secure or stabilize bluffs. I know the Village of Port Jefferson is debating what to do about the Port Jefferson Country Club because their tennis courts are going to fall in [the Long Island Sound] and then right after that, probably the clubhouse.

My view would be the same as it would be for Mastic Beach — to retreat from the bluffs. But again, sometimes you can’t do that because people live atop them, so you have to look at engineering solutions that would help stabilize the bluffs. It’s Mother Nature at work. Can man-made solutions resolve it? Sure they can … temporarily. Clearly, what should have been done is something that would have prevented building near or on the bluffs.

Can you discuss the recycling initiative that your office has undertaken?

Back in 2017, China announced its [Operation] National Sword policy. It said, “Hey, we’re not buying any more recycled goods from the United States.” Well, that created all types of problems.

Unfortunately with recycling, a lot of what needs to be recycled rests with the State of New York, and they have not been innovative. The [Department of Environmental Conservation] has chosen to be a regulator and not an innovator. Let me give you an example: glass.

Glass is one of the largest contaminants in the recycling process. To recycle, what do you need? You need a marketplace. Recycling doesn’t work if you don’t have a marketplace to reuse the goods that you’re recycling, which is why recycling has collapsed in large parts of this country.

What we’re looking for from the State of New York is called a BUD — a beneficial-use determination. We believe glass should be an aggregate used in concrete. Concrete is the most carbon-intensive production of any substance that we know. And the way you can end that is by substituting glass in that process as an aggregate, and we’ve allocated for that.

What this requires is the state DEC to give us a beneficial-use determination. Now we’ve proved that because we’ve built these huge drainage rings for our recycling center and we got state permission to use glass as the aggregate in the concrete. They are not even looking at that.

At Stony Brook University, there’s a boathouse. It’s painted blue and was built in 1989. Do you know what it was built out of? Ash. The strength of that building is stronger today than the day it was built in 1989. Guess what we do with our ash? We put it in our landfill. Yet we don’t get a beneficial-use determination to use ash in concrete, in asphalt or in other products. This would create a market for glass and ash.

Also, I’m waiting on the state legislation. I have an ally in the state Legislature — an old friend of mine, someone I served with in the [county] Legislature in the ’80s, and we still work together to this day: [Assemblyman] Steve Englebright [D-Setauket]. I’m trying to say, “Steve, what are we doing here? There’s so much we can be doing.” We need a “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill.” We need to create markets for products because if we don’t, recycling will not work and will not be effective.

If you give enough time and you watch a leaky faucet, that water one drop at a time over a long period of time will make a difference. I always remind myself of the one drop of water. Because if you keep on hammering away at it, change will come. If only incrementally, it will come for the better, for things that should come, for things that are so common sense that even the opposition can’t argue against it. And usually, the opposition tends to be monied interests that have some kind of economic benefit to them, not to the society as a whole.

How did you end up in the supervisor’s office?

I started out as a teacher. I taught for 12 years, almost all of it at Hauppauge. I was very active in the teachers union there. I was the treasurer of the teachers union on their executive committee. In fact, one of my students was Jay Schneiderman, the supervisor of Southampton [D] — I taught him seventh-grade social studies.

I was always active, kind of on the sidelines as a volunteer. In 1979, in the Town of Brookhaven — which had been under Democratic control for four years — the Republicans won everything and they needed people to go into town government. I had done a lot of work for the school district on federal and state aid, so they asked me to become a part-time federal and state aid coordinator.

I started there, and the first thing I got was a massive grant for community development. We got a huge, multimillion-dollar grant, but there were conditions on hiring staff. So they asked me to become the first commissioner on housing and community development for the town. I asked the school district to give me a leave of absence — they were very kind and gave me three in a row. And finally I told them, “Look, I’m not going to come back,” because I was into that job. I did that for five years and loved it.

All the sudden, the [county] legislative seat in which I lived had opened up and they asked me to run. Even though it was a little bit less money, I thought about it for a while and I said “yes.” I ran and was elected to the Legislature in ‘85 and then again in ‘87. I was getting ready to run again when our county clerk died. In between, I had run for Congress and did very well — I got 49.6% of the vote against an incumbent, Mr. [George] Hochbrueckner [D-NY1].

I ran for county clerk, won all 10 towns and went on to win five elections as county clerk. In that time, I had moved, the lines had changed and I got elected to the 1st Legislative District as their county legislator, which included all of eastern Brookhaven from Shoreham to where I live in Center Moriches, as well as Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island. I loved that district and didn’t lose an election district for the four times I ran. And I was getting ready to run again when Mr. [Mark] Lesko [D], who was the [Brookhaven] supervisor, resigned midterm.

I was asked to run for supervisor and I thought long and hard about that. The major reason I did that was because I had a son [Keith] who was a town councilman and died in office. He always told me that at some point in life he wanted to be a supervisor. That motivated me to say “yes.” I wound up winning five terms as supervisor. So that’s the very short synopsis of a long story.

Brookhaven is an old township that has endured for three-and-a-half centuries. What does it mean to you to be a part of that tradition, and what do you see as your place in it?

The one thing I know about history is that people are quickly forgotten. That’s why I made sure that when I became supervisor, I said, “Other than in Town Hall, I don’t want my name on any town signs or anything.” And you will not see my name on a town park or anything because I made it clear that I’m just passing through.

I believe one of the greatest things I did was save 1,100 acres and put them in the Central Pine Barrens — 800 of which was National Grid property. The legacy that I leave will be a legacy that benefits people, but they will not know it was me.

Photo from TOB

On March 22, Supervisor Ed Romaine accepted a $4,000 check from DIME Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. O’Connor to co-sponsor the Town of Brookhaven’s 2022 community recycling events. Each year the Town holds two recycling events in each Council District that include paper shredding, e-waste disposal and a supervised prescription drug drop-off program.

The 12 scheduled recycling events will help residents properly dispose of sensitive documents which, when improperly discarded, can fall into the hands of identity thieves. Residents can also dispose of e-waste and expired prescription drugs in an environmentally safe manner. Pictured (left to right) are Supervisor Ed Romaine; DIME CEO Kevin M. O’Connor; Town Commissioner of Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management, Christine Fetten; Councilwoman Jane Bonner; Councilman Dan Panico and DIME Executive VP and Chief Banking Officer James J. Manseau.

The 2022 recycling events are open to all Brookhaven Town residents for their personal, household material. No business records or medical practices will be accepted. For more information, call 451-TOWN (8696) or visit www.brookhavenny.gov/recyclingevents.

Residents are urged to bring the following electronic items to be recycled:

TV’s VCR & DVD Players Computer Mice Printers
 Calculators Hard Drives Electronic Typewriters Circuit Boards
Projectors Camcorders Laptops Power Supplies
Radios/Stereos Servers Backup Batteries PDAs
Mainframes Pagers Monitors Routers
Telephones Scanners Cell Phones Answering Machines
Hubs Modems Fax Machines Keyboards
Copiers Cables Gameboys & other Handheld Electronic Toys

Documents brought in for shredding will be fed into an industrial shredder, enabling each participant to witness the secure destruction of sensitive papers. Paper can be brought in boxes or bags. Documents can remain stapled together, but paper clips and other metal must be removed along with any other contaminants such as rubber bands. The 2022 schedule of events are as follows:

CD-3 Councilman Kevin LaValle
Saturday, April 2 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach

CD-5 Councilman Neil Foley
Saturday, April 9 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Patchogue-Medford High School, 181 Buffalo Avenue, Medford

CD-1 Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich
Saturday, April 23 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station

CD-2 Councilwoman Jane Bonner
Saturday, April 30 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Rose Caracappa Center, 739 Route 25A, Mt. Sinai

CD-4 Councilman Michael Loguercio
Saturday, May 21 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Brookhaven Town Hall, South Parking Lot, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville

CD-6 Councilman Dan Panico
Saturday, June 4 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
William Floyd Middle School, 630 Moriches-Middle Island Road, Moriches

CD-3 Councilman Kevin LaValle
Saturday, September 10 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook

CD-5 Councilman Neil Foley
Saturday, September 17 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Blue Point Fire Department, 205 Blue Point Avenue, Blue Point

CD-2 Councilwoman Jane Bonner
Saturday, October 1 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Rose Caracappa Center, 739 Route 25A, Mt. Sinai

CD-6 Councilman Dan Panico
Saturday, October 15 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Center Moriches Library, 235 Montauk Highway, Center Moriches

CD-1 Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich
Saturday, October 22 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Setauket Fire Department, 394 Nicolls Road, Setauket

CD-4 Councilman Michael Loguercio
Saturday, November 5 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM
South Country Public Library, 22 Station Road, Bellport

 

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The Kraft Heinz Co., the third-largest food and beverage company in North America, has agreed to set a goal to reduce total virgin plastic use following the filing of a shareholder proposal and engagement with As You Sow

The proposal asked Kraft Heinz to report on how the company would reduce plastic packaging, including planned reduction strategies or goals, materials redesign, substitution, or reductions in use of virgin plastic.

The company intends to set a substantial virgin plastic packaging reduction goal later this year or in the first quarter of 2023, the company informed As You Sow in a statement. In response, As You Sow agreed to withdraw its shareholder proposal. Kraft Heinz’s commitment continues a steady stream of major U.S. brands and retailers who have agreed to cut virgin plastic use after interaction with As You Sow

Kraft Heinz said it would “continue to drive towards its packaging goals and support of a circular economy through a variety of initiatives and investments, including reduction of virgin plastic material, packaging redesign, increased use of recycled content, and continued exploration and scaling of reuse models.”

“We were pleased to reach this agreement with Kraft Heinz that involves a substantial virgin plastic reduction goal for packaging including consideration of packaging redesign and innovative reuse models,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “We have similar pending proposals at AmazonMcDonald’s, and Kroger and hope that those companies can agree to reductions in the use of plastic for packaging.”  

Forty-five percent of Kroger shareholders and 35% of Amazon shareholders supported proposals last year asking for reductions in plastic use.

Five other large companies — Keurig Dr Pepper, Mondelez International, PepsiCo, Target Corp., and Walmart — agreed to virgin plastic reductions in 2021 after the filing of shareholder proposals by As You SowTarget and Keurig Dr. Pepper agreed to reduce virgin plastic in brand packaging by 20%, Walmart agreed to a 15% cut; and Mondelez agreed to cut 5% — all by 2025; and PepsiCo agreed to a 20% cut by 2030. Cumulatively, the reduction in use of virgin plastic announced by these five brands is expected to total more than 700,000 tons. 

As You Sow’s efforts have been catalyzed by a 2020 landmark study by Pew Charitable Trusts, Breaking the Plastic Wave, which said immediate and sustained new commitments throughout the plastics value chain are needed, including actions by brand owners, consumer goods companies, and retailers to reduce at least one-third of plastic demand through elimination, reuse, and new delivery models.

The largest cut in overall plastic use to date by a major consumer goods company was a 2019 commitment by Unilever to cut virgin plastic use by 50%, including a total elimination of 100,000 tons of plastic packaging by 2025.

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As You Sow is the nation’s leading shareholder advocacy nonprofit, with a 30-year track record promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility and advancing values-aligned investing. Its issue areas include climate change, ocean plastics, pesticides, racial justice, workplace diversity, and executive compensation. Click here for As You Sow’s shareholder resolution tracker.

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.”