Brookhaven is dumping its troubled single-stream recycling program after town officials said they could no longer sell mixed paper, plastic and metal products.
The town on Nov. 28 will switch back to the dual-stream program that it discontinued in 2014 when it adopted the single-stream system, officials said Thursday. Town officials are launching a wide-ranging publicity campaign to announce the change.
In another change, glass will no longer be accepted in curbside recycling pickups, officials said. And containers such as pizza boxes stained by food grease also will not be taken.
Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, in an interview at Brookhaven Town Hall, said the town had no choice but to cancel the single-stream program because customers would no longer purchase material that residents deposited together in a single bin.
"Single-stream was a good thing that helped increase recycling," Romaine said at a town board work session Thursday. "But there is no market for single-stream. Just no market. And what market that exists is for dual-stream."
Critics of single-stream programs have said they produce too much "contamination," such as food stains and packing tape, that reduces the value of cardboard and other products.
The Brookhaven program was roiled last month when Green Stream Recycling pulled out of a 25-year contract to run the town's massive recycling processing facility in Brookhaven hamlet. Green Stream, co-owned by West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems and Westbury-based Omni Recycling, is expected to go out of business.
Green Stream, like recyclers across the country, struggled to find buyers after China earlier this year began curtailing purchases of U.S. recyclables. The change has affected markets of all recyclables, but especially those collected in single-stream programs that cause more contamination, officials said.
Brookhaven has continued collecting recyclables this month but has sent the material to other processing plants. Town officials are weighing options for restarting the Brookhaven facility.
Green Stream's decision to leave Brookhaven also affected municipalities such as Smithtown, Huntington and Southold that used the Brookhaven facility. Those towns are in various stages of developing new recycling programs; Huntington has announced it will switch from single-stream to dual-stream recycling.
Brookhaven officials said they expect some tumult as residents switch back to sorting recyclables. Town officials plan to run newspaper and television ads, and social media posts, to publicize the change.
"I think you have to re-educate people about what can be recycled," said Christopher Andrade, Brookhaven's commissioner of recycling and sustainable materials management.
Brookhaven officials could not estimate how much the switch will cost the town. They said the town will have to pay vendors to accept material collected by a dual-stream program, but it will cost less than disposing of single-stream material.
Romaine said recyclables will be picked up in alternate weeks, with paper products and cardboard collected one week and plastics and other recyclable material collected the following week. Recycling pickup in Brookhaven takes place on Wednesdays.
Residents should put out plastics, aluminum and other metals in their recycling bins on Nov. 28. Paper and cardboard will be picked up the following week.
Brookhaven officials are developing locations for residents to drop off glass. Town officials and waste industry experts have said that glass has little value except as landfill lining, and that broken glass ruins machines at recycling facilities.