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Hempstead Town to stop collecting recyclables amid crisis

Town of Hempstead residents are asked to hold

Town of Hempstead residents are asked to hold on to their recycling until collection resumes. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The Town of Hempstead will stop recycling pickup for 86,000 residents as the town faces staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supervisor Don Clavin announced that recyclables normally collected by the town's sanitation department would be suspended starting Monday  until further notice. The change will affect communities including Bellmore, Bethpage, East Meadow, Levittown, Lido Beach, Point Lookout, Seaford, Uniondale and Wantagh.

The town has seen an increased number of town workers calling in sick or going into quarantine as a precaution, sanitation Commissioner John Conroy said. He would not say how many employees are ill with coronavirus.

Town officials said they will seek to restart recycling as soon as possible once staffing allows and will review the decision from week to week. Residents are asked to hold their recycling until pickup resumes.

Garbage collection twice a week for the town remains unaffected.

“My biggest concern is getting solid waste off the street, and it’s getting tight with our labor force,” Conroy said. “The virus is affecting guys getting sick or others getting quarantined.”

The town has seen an increase in the amount of garbage put at the curb since the stay-at-home order began, Conroy said. He said homeowners are doing more spring cleaning projects.

The suspension does not apply to the town’s five special sanitation districts or villages, which decide separately on whether to continue recycling pickup.

Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7, which serves 13,000 homes and 950  businesses, suspended recycling during the duration of the pandemic.

Town sanitation officials said they are keeping men as separated as possible, including keeping two men to a truck and having a third man meet them at their route before riding on the back of the truck.

“When one guy gets sick, the other two guys go on quarantine,” Conroy said. “When I lose one guy, I have to lose three guys. It’s not just a couple days, it’s for a couple weeks.”

Oceanside sanitation stopped collection March 23, but has not seen a decrease in staffing or workers calling out sick, sanitation Commissioner Austin Graff said. The district has changed to rotating shifts three days a week to pick up earlier and get workers home faster, Graff said. Workers remain paid full time.

Oceanside residents are asked to either hold recycling until the crisis ends or add it to garbage collection, where it will be burned.

Hempstead is the only known town on Long Island to suspend recycling services.

Some communities have reduced garbage pickup to one day a week or limited yardwork collection. 

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