Riverhead Environmental Advisory Committee Co-Chair Mark Haubner, right, with Beth Fertini and Francesca Greco of Green Inside and Out, discusses food scrap recycling with Dawn Thomas and Frank Messina of the Community Development office and the Riverhead Town Board at Thursday's work session. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town is looking to expand the pilot food scraps recycling program launched last year by the Environmental Advisory Committee.

The Town Board on Thursday agreed to authorize an application for a grant from the State Department of Environmental Conservation to support the expanded program.

The town will apply for a grant of up to $30,000, Community Development Director Dawn Thomas said. The town will seek funds to help it purchase equipment and fuel for implementing the program.

Mark Haubner, co-chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee, told Town Board members at Thursday’s work session that pulling food scraps out of the waste that gets shipped off to an incinerator will save the town money in transportation costs and tipping fees at the incinerator.

In the three-month pilot program, which ended around Thanksgiving, the town collected food scraps from nine homes in Calverton, as well as from the Riverhead Senior Center, Bean & Bagel Café and LuchaCubano. The food scraps were then dropped off at the Long island Horticultural Research and Extension Center and the Roanoke Lavender Farm, where they were composted. In all, the town collected two tons of food scraps during the three-month pilot, Haubner said.

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The committee proposes setting up a central collection point, likely the former animal shelter on Youngs Avenue, where residents can drop off food scraps. Then the town will transport the food scraps to local farms that agree to participate in the program. Committee volunteers will work to get farmers to sign up.

Haubner said Thursday in talks with the L.I. Farm Bureau he learned they would prefer to receive compost rather than the scraps, but composting the food scraps is not something the town is currently in a position to undertake.

Green Inside and Out, a Long Island nonprofit focused don educating consumers about low-environmental impact living, already has a $20,000 grant that will support consumer education efforts for the food scraps program and purchase 65-gallon lockable bins, with liners, and a metal sign designating the drop-off site with basic sorting information, according to the organization’s founder and director, Beth Fiteni.

Fiteni told the board that the food scrap recycling program, if successful, would be the first such program on Long Island. New York City and other municipalities upstate have been doing food scrap recycling for several years, Fiteni said.

Haubner said the town could model other recycling education efforts after the one Fiteni’s organization will develop for Riverhead. The town needs to look at ways to increase the amount and types of wastes it diverts from incineration, Haubner said. That will require a public education campaign to get more people to recycle items that can be recycled. Riverhead is only recycling 15% of what can be recycled, he said.

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