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Suffolk towns reach tentative pact to jointly handle recycling

The Town of Brookhaven's Materials Recovery Facility on

The Town of Brookhaven's Materials Recovery Facility on Sept. 25. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Three Suffolk County towns have reached a tentative pact to jointly handle thousands of tons of recyclable materials for at least the next six months, Smithtown officials said.

The agreement, expected to be ratified this week by the Smithtown, Brookhaven and Southold town councils, will also include the Huntington villages of Lloyd Harbor and Asharoken. It would end the convenient but expensive system under which residents put all their recyclables out for pickup in a curbside bin. Instead, pickups would alternate between paper products one week and plastic and metal the next, a system known as dual-stream recycling.

Glass, which is difficult to recycle because when it breaks, it ruins other recyclables and the machinery in processing plants, will not be accepted for curbside pickup; Smithtown residents who wish to recycle glass will have to carry it themselves to drop-off points to be established around the town.

Municipal recycling in areas of Long Island stopped last month and mountains of material started piling up when Brookhaven contractor Green Stream Recycling pulled out of its 25-year contract to run the massive Yaphank facility processing materials for a number of municipalities. Company officials said the operation was no longer viable after a collapse in the global recycling market.

“This gives us some breathing room,” Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said of the tentative multi-town agreement. “We were looking at probably an $850,000 to $950,000 expenditure a year to continue to remove our recyclable products. This agreement will result in us actually breaking even.”

Brookhaven spokesman Kevin Molloy confirmed the three towns have a tentative deal.

With tumbling prices and stricter import standards from China, the world’s largest buyer, “recycling was on the verge of total collapse across Long Island” earlier this year, Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s top solid waste management official said.

Smithtown officials, working with Brookhaven, in early November issued bid solicitations to Long Island carters intended to test the market for both mixed and sorted recyclables. Separated materials can be more easily marketed and traded, officials said.

Barnett said Friday that Smithtown had selected Winters Brothers Hauling, which will pay $30 a ton for mixed paper and cardboard, and Trinity Transportation Corp., which will be paid $68 per ton to haul mixed recyclables minus glass.

Starting Jan. 1, the materials would be stored for pickup at Smithtown’s resource facility on Old Northport Road. Smithtown’s municipal partners would pay the town $5 per ton of mixed paper to cover the cost of handling.

Winters Bros. and Trinity had also offered to continue single-stream recycling, but at prices officials considered too high: Winters Bros. asked to be paid $82 a ton and Trinity asked $92 a ton.

The contracts can be extended for another six months, if the companies and municipalities agree. But Barnett said, “We don’t want to lock into a long-term plan at the worst possible time for markets.”

Smithtown officials will soon start another set of calculations to decide if the town should reopen a sorting facility it shut down in 2014 when the town moved to single-stream recycling. Some sorted high-grade metals and plastics still command attractive prices, but the town might have to hire additional employees to staff the sorting facility, officials said.

The future of recycling on Long Island could include more intermunicipal agreements, Barnett said. “You need economies of scale,” Barnett said. “If we’re all using the same machinery and manpower it helps us contain the costs and maintain recycling at a reasonable expense to the taxpayer.”


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