Tag Archive | "recycling"

Town Aims to Increase Recycling Efforts

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By Claire Walla


Christine Fetten is developing a 15-year plan for waste reduction. As Southampton Town’s Director of Facilities Management, she’s been tasked to lead the effort to improve the long-term recycling system laid-out in the town’s overall Comprehensive Plan, which will span through 2025. And as part of this plan, she aims to track every pound of recyclable material that leaves this town, ensuring it all gets disposed of in the most environmentally sound way possible.

Overall, she said the Town of Southampton is recycling more than the national average, for which only an estimated 33 percent of households are actually reported to recycle. Of the residents who use the town’s transfer stations, Fetten said about 51 percent separate out recyclables from their rubbish.

However, she went on to explain that only 15 percent of Southampton Town residents actually use the town’s transfer stations. This is where enforcing recycling efforts can become tricky.

This is not to say 85 percent of the Town of Southampton is not recycling — Fetten made that clear. But, it does mean that 85 percent of town residents use private carters, and where those recyclables end up, Fetten said, is unknown at this point.

But this is just what Fetten aims to find out.

Southampton Town is required to draft a waste management plan by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The town initially set to work on this document in collaboration with environmental consultants from CDM (Camp Dresser & McKee) and Smith Associates, who recommended the town continue operating its transfer stations. (In addition to facilities in Hampton Bays, Westhampton and North Sea, there is also a smaller transfer station in Sag Harbor.)

However, part of continuing operations included one crucial caveat: “The DEC wants us to gain more information on what all of the town’s garbage is doing,” Fetten explained.

Thus, her department will begin issuing permits to commercial carters in an effort to begin tracking that information.

“We’re looking to obtain: tonnage collected, tonnage disposed of, ultimately tonnage recycled and the location of the receiving facilities and the routes,” Fetten continued.

By collecting this information, Fetten said the town will “Gain an idea of the recycling rates in all parts of the town.”

Currently, she said the town itself is making all efforts to dispose of waste products in ways that minimize their impact on the environment.

“We bring our co-mingled [garbage] to the town of Brookhaven,” Fetten explained. “Plastics are generally baled and loaded into a trailer for overseas transportation containment.”

She said paper is also baled and sent overseas, but the town receives money for these recyclables.

“Waste management is set up to be an enterprise account,” Fetten continued.

So, the fees associated with the sale of recyclable materials go toward running the town’s transfer stations. So does the sale of compost to commercial carters, which is $2 a yard when loaded on site, and $3 a yard when delivered by the town. (It’s free for residents.)

“In addition to being sustainable, we need to make sure we’re covering our costs.”

Fetten said the town sends recyclable materials (paper, cardboard and metal) to Gershow Recyclables in Nassau County; it sends e-waste (including computers, cellular phones and televisions) to e-Scrap Destruction up island; and it takes all other recyclable materials (including glass and plastic) to Brookhaven Town’s recycling facilities, where Fetten said they are reduced and reused.

However, not all materials that can be are currently recycled. Fetten said her department is looking into ways to properly dispose of batteries and Styrofoam. While rechargeable batteries can most often be returned to the store where they were purchased, at this point Fetten said alkaline batteries can only be chucked into green bags, which eventually end up at a landfill.

The same is true for Styrofoam.

“There’s no longer a recycling facility on Long Island for that,” she explained. “At least not that I know of. That’s why it goes in a green bag [used for generic trash].”

She said the town is looking into opportunities to ultimately bale these products and then sell the materials for market value.

In the end, while Fetten said the town will continue to explore the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable recycling options, and will continue to explore newer recycling technologies, she said the overall message is tied to a much bigger picture.

According to statistics compiled by CDM & Smith Associates, individuals in the Town of Southampton generate an average of 4.43 pounds of waste materials a day. And with a year-round population of 60,000, which is estimated to climb to 180,000 in the summer months, Fetten said, “that’s a lot of waste!”

The ultimate goal is waste reduction, she continued. In part, this is contingent on state and federal governments, which have the power to introduce new technologies, like soy-based Styrofoam, which decomposes instead of being co-mingled with regular rubbish and tossed in a landfill.

But, on the local level, Fetten said the town needs to work on fostering sustainability goals and options. Not only encouraging residents to recycle, but teaching them how to cut-down on their waste from the get-go.

“There are so many different opportunities for the population to make choices” about the materials they use, Fetten continued. “That’s really the goal of our education and outreach program: To provide that information to the public.”

The public comment period on the town’s Waste Management Plan will be open through January 31. The public is invited to review the plan online or in the town clerk’s office, and submit comments.

Paper or Cloth? Southampton Town Seeks to Ban Plastic Bags

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By Claire Walla

“In my opinion, we’re going to look back at this and question why we didn’t do this earlier,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said to her fellow council members.

Throne-Holst was speaking at a town board work session last Friday, December 9 in reference to a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags throughout the town of Southampton.

“I think the entire world is moving in this direction,” added Throne-Holst, a stanch proponent of the measure.

The proposal to ban plastic bags in the town of Southampton comes nearly six months after the first work session was held on the matter. In that time, the town’s sustainability committee chairman Tip Brolin sought more information from the town’s business community and consumers, specifically addressing concerns many businesses initially expressed regarding the high price of replacing plastic with recyclable paper.

The town’s proposed plastic ban initially would effectively ban single-use plastic bags less than two mils thick, and less than 28 inches by 36 inches in size. Smaller plastic bags — like those used to hold fish and produce — would not be affected by the ban.

The legislation also originally included provisions that would have allowed stores to carry paper bags made of 40 percent recyclable materials, a stipulation that essentially mirrors similar legislation already enacted in Westport, Conn. (Most grocery stores use paper bags that are made of 30 percent recyclable materials.)

“I do generally agree with the fact that we need to get greener,” said Debbie Longnecker of Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road.

However, she expressed some concern with the added price tag associated with purchasing reusable bags and paper bags.

At one point, she explained, “We gave reusable bags away. However, not everyone brings them back.”

She said the store’s winter clientele is more inclined to get into the habit of consistently bringing reusable bags when they shop. But she said it’s a different story with the summer people who are in the area for a short period of time and less inclined to bring their own bags when they shop.

“I think a lot more planning has to be done before [this law is enacted],” she added. “There needs to be a cost-effective alternative before you say to people: You can’t do this anymore.”

Partially quelling Longnecker’s concern, Brolin explained last week that the proposed legislation will in fact allow stores to use the less expensive paper bags made of 30 percent recyclable materials. Plus, he added that follow-up surveys with nearly 1,700 shoppers in Westport, Conn. revealed that 53 percent were consistently using reusable bags after the plastic ban went into effect. Brolin compared this number to the nearby Norwalk/Wilton area — which has not implemented a plastic bag ban — where the number is closer to 10 percent.

Should Southampton Town decide to implement legislation that bans single-use plastic bags, it would follow in the footsteps of both Southampton Village, which banned plastic last spring, and East Hampton Village, which adopted similar legislation last month. The legislation proposed for the town would essentially be the same as that adopted in the Village of Southampton, except that paper bags would only have to be made with 30 percent recyclable materials as opposed to 40 percent.

Before adopting the legislation, Brolin reported that the town initially discussed promoting the use of reusable shopping bags by educating the community on the harms of single-use plastic bags — the fact that most of the bags are not recycled and are piling up in landfills and littering the oceans, thereby potentially harming at least 260 different sea species. However, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that after a lackluster response from the business community, she feels the best tactic at this point is to adopt the legislation and spend six months before the policy is enacted making residents aware of this change.

According to Liz Plouff, the town’s sustainability coordinator, education will come in the way of press releases and conferences, as well as a partnership with SeaTV, the town government television channel. In addition, Plouff has suggested the town hand-out reusable bags to town residents at no charge. She said the town could finance this measure by getting local stores and businesses to pay a small fee in exchange for getting their logos printed on the bags.

The town board will hold its first official public hearing on the proposed plastic bag legislation on Thursday, December 22.