Glass is still in
ISLIP TOWN—Officials in Brookhaven, Smithtown and Southold recently announced changes to their recycling programs. The townships are switching from single-stream to dual-stream recycling programs, requiring residents to separate cardboard and mixed paper from plastics, aluminum and other metals.
In addition to these changes, glass will no longer be accepted in their recycling programs. Brookhaven and Smithtown officials have also reportedly said they will no longer collect greasy pizza boxes as well.
Being that these nearby townships, all within Suffolk County, have decided to make the change, this publication reached out to Islip Town officials and asked if they had similar plans for their recycling. Martin Bellew, Islip Town’s environmental commissioner, said the town has no plans for such changes. “We have a market for [glass],” Bellew said, regarding the town’s use of Beneficial Use Determinations.
BUDs, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, allow NYS-approved waste material, which would otherwise be discarded, to be used in a mutually beneficial, “cost-effective manner,” mainly for environmental projects.
Islip Town also uses a split-system when it comes to collecting recyclables. Cardboard and paper are picked up on alternating Wednesdays, while glass and smaller metal items are taken on the remaining Wednesdays. Larger metal items are collected every Wednesday.
Numerous cities, counties and towns throughout the country have stopped curbside pickup in recent years when it comes to recycling glass. The communities often cite high cost as reason for the decision. Glass weighs about 10 times more than the same volume of other recyclables, including aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Broken glass often gets mixed up with other recyclables and disrupts the sorting process. It can also break or damage equipment and pose a threat to workers.
Another reason for this trend is that China, due to large levels of trash within their own country, has significantly limited the amount of recyclables they take in from foreign countries like the United States and those in Europe.
New York State’s 4th District Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said this issue should be included in the Trump administration’s ongoing trade negotiations with China. Boyle reiterated that fixing this issue would need to be done largely on the federal level, being that individual states can’t pass legislation that punishes international trade practices that some see as unfair.
On a more local level, Boyle feels the state could always seek additional funding to help local municipalities with their recycling practices.
Despite more and more communities moving away from recycling glass, or at least making it harder for residents to do so, over 90 percent of Americans expect the glass they use to be recycled, according to a survey conducted by the Glass Recycling Coalition last year.
Four years ago, Brookhaven, Smithtown and Southold adopted the single-stream recycling system, which allowed residents to place all recyclable items outside at once for weekly pickup. The recent change calls for alternating pickups, with cardboard and paper one week and metals and plastics the next—similar to Islip’s system.
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