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Smithtown reviews bids for recycling program, return to separating materials

The move follows other towns that are looking at a return to having residents separate items for alternate-week pickup instead of putting all items together.

After Brookhaven stopped accepting recyclable material, Smithtown solicited

After Brookhaven stopped accepting recyclable material, Smithtown solicited bids for contractors to take over the job, but material has been building up at the town facility for about two weeks. Photo Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Smithtown waste management officials on Thursday opened bids from five companies vying to handle all or part of the 11,500 tons of paper, glass, plastic and metal town residents generate each year.

The bids, submitted two weeks after Brookhaven announced it would no longer accept material at the Yaphank facility used by Smithtown and several other Long Island municipalities, suggest the recyclables market has changed to the detriment of the Long Island taxpayer.

China, the world’s largest recyclables importer, roiled markets by imposing restrictions and heightened inspections for material bound for its processing plants this year.  

Smithtown used to sell its mixed material for $15 a ton; on Thursday at Town Hall, only two companies submitted bids for unprocessed curbside single stream recyclables. Winters Brothers of Westbury asked to be paid $82 a ton and Trinity Transportation of Islandia asked $92 a ton. At those rates, what was once a six-figure revenue item for the town would come close to being a $1 million yearly expense.

But that number could drop if Smithtown returns to the dual stream system it left in 2014, with residents recycling paper on alternate weeks and the town sorting its own material at its own facility, mothballed since that year, Russ Barnett, the town’s top waste management official, said after the bid opening.

Among recyclable items, glass presents the biggest problems for municipalities because it ruins the value of other materials and of sorting machines when it shatters. That’s a big enough problem that officials are considering asking residents to take it to a depot themselves or establishing a call-in service for pickup, Barnett said. One option officials are considering is single stream recycling excluding glass.

Smithtown officials also solicited bids for a scenario where the town would combine material with Brookhaven and the villages of Lloyd Harbor and Asharoken, bringing the estimated annual volume of recyclables to 45,300 tons.

Since Green Stream Recycling stopped operating the Yaphank facility last month, officials from Southold and Brookhaven said their towns would consider ending single stream programs; Huntington officials said this week the town would switch to a dual-stream program.

"People are going to have to get used to a new collection mechanism or they'll have to pay the piper," Trinity Transportation owner Patricia DiMatteo said.

Barnett said it would take his team about two weeks to analyze the bids, an informal deadline imposed because the Town Council will need to select a contractor before the end of the year, and because the building where Smithtown’s recyclables are temporarily being stored — a two-acre structure on Old Northport Road — is filling with mounds of material.   

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