Unfortunately, recycling is not just a matter of what people are willing to separate from their trash and place at the curb. In order for true recycling to occur, someone has to want the separated material for use in manufacturing new products. There is currently a nationwide recycling crisis. Most of the material that has been collected by municipal recycling programs throughout the United States has been going to China. The Chinese government has set new standards for the purity and cleanliness of recyclables that they will allow into their country. These new standards are forcing communities across the United States to reduce the list of items put out for recycling and to change the way in which we collect recyclables.
First, we are going back to “dual stream” recycling; effective January 01, 2019 we are asking residents to separate their cardboard and paper from other recyclables for collection every other Wednesday. This helps to ensure that the cardboard and paper will be free of contaminants like broken glass or the occasional plastic bottle. It helps to ensure that the collected cardboard and paper will actually be taken by manufacturers and be recycled into new cardboard and paper products.
Second, we are asking residents to no longer put glass in their curbside collection bins. Glass bottles tend to break when placed in the bins, to break when they’re emptied into the collection truck, and to break when the truck is emptied. Glass shards damage equipment in the facilities that sort the collected recyclables by type. Glass shards are also very difficult and expensive to remove and become an impurity or contaminant when they remain mixed with other recyclables. Glass can, in fact, destroy the ability to recycle an entire load of mixed recyclables. If no one wants the load for the manufacturing of new products because it contains glass shards, the entire load must be disposed of as garbage.
Third, while there is a very limited market for the recycling of glass, we have established three glass drop-off centers, one each at the Highway Department in Nesconset (758 Nesconset Highway); Town Hall in downtown Smithtown (99 West Main Street), and at the Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park (85 Old Northport Road). People can drop off glass separate from other recyclables. This will preserve the ability to actually recycle the other recyclables which will be still be collected curbside, and increase our ability to actually recycle the glass that people contribute to the program.
Fourth, we are going back to asking residents to only recycle #1 and #2 plastics. There are firms that will take these plastics and use them in the manufacture of new items; as long as they are not mixed, or “contaminated” with other types of plastics. There are only very weak or nonexistent markets for #3 through #7 plastics, and it is very difficult to separate these plastics from the #1 and #2 plastics. Once again, if manufacturers’ representatives deem a load of recyclables to have too high an amount of things other than what they are seeking, they won’t take the load. The entire load may wind up having to be disposed of as garbage.
The Town is responding to worldwide market conditions and making these changes to ensure that the material put out by Town residents is truly recycled; that the material can actually be taken and used in the manufacture of new products. Absent the changes that we are implementing, the majority of material being put out by residents for recycling would wind up being disposed of as waste rather than being recycled. It is our hope that market conditions will change and new technologies will arise that will create new recycling opportunities. It is our intention to monitor conditions as we move forward and to expand our recycling program whenever possible.
Thank you for your participation in this important environmental protection program.