Residents will be required to keep yard waste separate from all other wastes for pickup on designated collection days. Stock photo: Adobe Stock

There are changes coming for yard waste collection in Riverhead Town.

Residents will be required to separate yard waste from other wastes on designated yard waste collection days or it won’t be picked up by the carter.

Also, the carter will be making a separate run for yard waste collection; it won’t be picked up at the same time as other waste, though it will be picked up on the second trash pickup day during designated yard waste collection weeks.

The change will take effect in February. Town officials plan to mail a revised sticker to all residents to be affixed to the refrigerator magnet supplied by the town.

Yard waste collection will take place during designated weeks during the year — two weeks of every month — on the second collection day of the week. That means during designated yard waste collection weeks, the carter will pick up yard waste on either Thursday or Friday, depending on the collection schedule of the resident’s garbage district. (If your first trash collection day is Monday, your second day is Thursday. If your first collection is Tuesday, your second day is Friday.)

The change is an indirect result of an upheaval in international markets for recyclables — specifically changes implemented by China and other Asian countries to limit or even ban the importation of recyclables. The changing marketplace led Riverhead’s contracted municipal carter, European American, to seek the town’s approval of a fee increase to cover “tipping fee” costs at the Brookhaven Town transfer station. European American had previously been using a different transfer facility where the costs were increasing more steeply, according to Riverhead officials.

Brookhaven Town is in contract with Covanta Energy to dispose of nonrecyclable solid waste at its its incineration facility in Hempstead. Covanta disposes of ash from the Hempstead facility at Brookhaven’s Yaphank landfill.

The Brookhaven Town facility requires yard waste to be handled separately from other wastes — making necessary the separate collection of yard wastes in Riverhead. The carter will absorb the cost of the second collection. But the town will pay a higher per-household collection fee to cover the cost of higher tipping fees as the Brookahven transfer station.

This year, the increased collection cost will be covered by funds received by the town under the revenue-sharing provisions of its contract with the carter, which entitles the town to a portion of the proceeds of the sale of recyclables collected in the town.

Requirements for recyclables are also changing somewhat and are going to be more strictly enforced, town officials said. Cans, bottles and plastic containers must be cleaned or they are considered contaminated and cannot be recycled. Cardboard must be dry and clean. Styrofoam, plastic bags and plastic film must not be mixed with recyclables. The carter is not required to pick up recyclables mixed in with non-recyclable or contaminated recyclable wastes.

Town officials and carters across Long Island are very concerned about how they will deal with volatility in the recyclables markets and other changes that may result.

Municipalities have a strong economic incentive to recycle as much of their waste stream as possible to avoid the high cost of disposing wastes at incineration facilities or far-off landfills. While towns have been able to generate revenues from the sale of recyclables, the markets are volatile and, with market changes in Asia, the markets are potentially disappearing. That would mean less waste being diverted from expensive disposal facilities — and, ultimately, higher costs to taxpayers.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who chairs the Riverhead Town Board solid waste committee said she’s attended regional meetings with other towns and carting companies operating on Long Island.

“We put together a lobbying committee to go to Albany to talk to legislators in the hope of finding a permanent fix,” Giglio said in an interview yesterday.

“We’ll be asking legislators to find or help develop new markets for some of the recyclables,” Giglio said. She said the chances of success are better if the municipalities approach the issue on a regional basis.

“We’re trying to find one solution for Long Island,” Giglio said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.