From left, town supervisors Edward P. Romaine of Brookhaven, Richard Schaffer of Babylon, Angie...

From left, town supervisors Edward P. Romaine of Brookhaven, Richard Schaffer of Babylon, Angie Carpenter of Islip, and Ed Wehrheim of Smithtown, and David Vitale, director of materials management for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, attend a symposium at Stony Brook University on Wednesday. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Supervisors from four Long Island towns said Wednesday that expanding opportunities to sell recyclable trash and finding new uses for glass are key to solving what they said were waste management problems in the region.

Speaking at Stony Brook University, the town officials from Islip, Brookhaven, Smithtown and Babylon said at a symposium on environment and trash issues that they would work together to head off what they said could become a waste management crisis when the Brookhaven landfill closes in less than two years.

The nearly 50-year-old landfill and a facility operated by Babylon Town, both of which take incinerated trash from Covanta waste-to-energy plants, are the only municipal landfills on Long Island. Brookhaven's also is one of only two dumps where private contractors can deposit construction debris.

Boosting recycling programs is part of a multifaceted effort to deal with the Brookhaven landfill's closure, but towns face resistance from manufacturers to purchase recyclables such as glass, which instead is used for town road projects, supervisors said.

"We need partners. We don't have partners," Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. "The future of Long Island is dependent on this." 

Romaine, the Republican candidate for Suffolk County executive, and town supervisors Angie Carpenter of Islip, Ed Wehrheim of Smithtown and Richard Schaffer of Babylon took part in a roundtable discussion as part of the symposium at the university's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Other symposium discussions focused on topics such as composting, federal funding for environmental protection and a bill in the state legislature that would shift some waste disposal costs to manufacturers.

Schaffer said officials from Long Island's 13 towns plan to meet next week with state Department of Environmental Conservation officials to discuss waste management issues.

Brookhaven officials have said they expect the dump to reach capacity in December 2024. 

But Romaine said the landfill may remain open an additional year or two because of excess capacity that he attributed to a pause in construction during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Supervisors said state officials should take a more active role in local waste management.

David Vitale, DEC director of materials management, who took part in the roundtable, said the agency's role is limited under state law, which places responsibility for local decisions on towns and counties.

"I believe that the department has been a partner with what we are authorized to do," Vitale said, adding the state has provided $100 million to Long Island for recycling and other waste programs.

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