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New recycling operator could choose dual-stream program, Brookhaven says

Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Brookhaven's struggles point to flaws in Long Island recycling programs.

Trucks unload recyclables at the Brookhaven single-stream recycling

Trucks unload recyclables at the Brookhaven single-stream recycling facility operated by Green Stream Recycling on May 3, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Brookhaven could disband its single-stream recycling program and return to its old dual-stream system as the town seeks a new company to run its massive processing facility, officials said Tuesday.

Companies bidding to take over the facility in Brookhaven hamlet have been given the option of continuing the town's five-year-old single-stream system -- in which residents place glass, paper and other recyclables in a single bin -- or switching to dual stream, in which material is placed in separate containers, town Chief of Operations Matt Miner said.

He said several companies have inquired about the town's search for a firm to replace Green Stream Recycling, which announced Monday it would stop operating the Brookhaven facility Oct. 29. Green Stream officials cited collapsing commodities prices stemming from China's decision to curtail purchases of U.S. recyclables.

Bids will be reviewed on Nov. 1, and the town board is expected to immediately approve a new operator, Miner said. The new company will run the town recycling system for at least six months while officials consider long-term options for the program. 

“I think there will be bidders for single stream,” he said. “It’s too early to say. We’re single stream now and the bid provides for both. We’ll see where it goes.”

Brookhaven officials have said Green Stream owes the town about $1.7 million in unpaid bills and fees. Green Stream is expected to disband because of its financial difficulties.

Green Stream and Brookhaven officials had negotiated a possible settlement for weeks before talks broke down Monday. 

Brookhaven officials have told villages and towns that use the facility that they may opt out of the program. Smithtown is considering other recycling providers, and Southold may do the same.

Huntington officials said their last delivery to the Brookhaven plant will be on Wednesday and they plan to hire a company to process recyclables for the next two months. They expect to hire a new recycling vendor next month and switch to a dual-stream program next year.

"By producing a better curbside product, we will improve the quality of our marketable recyclables and receive more favorable pricing," Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said in an email.

The mayors of Bellport and Patchogue, which also use the Brookhaven facility, said they have few other options and may stick with the town program.

"We're not going to run around and figure out who else to use. We're going to work with the town," Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said. "Unfortunately, we have nowhere to go with it. The town has to come up with a plan."

A possible switch back to dual-stream recycling is one of several changes anticipated by Brookhaven officials.

The 75,000-square-foot recycling plant will primarily be used as a storage and transfer facility for the next six months while equipment is inspected and the facility is cleaned, Miner said. The new recycling operator and private carters will have to find other facilities to process and sell recyclables, he said.

Carters hired by Brookhaven will continue picking up curbside recycling bins while town officials review the program, he said.

Green Stream had completed a $7 million upgrade of the recycling plant in 2013 as the town prepared to launch its single-stream program. At the time, Brookhaven officials had hoped to expand the program islandwide.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Brookhaven's struggles point to flaws in Long Island recycling programs. She called for improved education to help residents learn what should and should not be placed in recycling bins.

“Single stream is not working like some had hoped,” she said. “Dual stream is a more effective way of recycling. If we have to go back, we should go back to that.”

With Deon J. Hampton and Sophia Chang

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