Recycling in the Town of East Hampton has slid 47 percent since 1998, a new study by Stony Brook University revealed on Tuesday, and the sanitation department is worried people are being careless.
More garbage is ending up in incinerators than in Long Island recycling stations. According to the study, produced 29,582 tons of waste in 2009, with 21,822 tons being transported and 7,760 tons being recycled. In 1998, 42 percent of the town's waste was being recycled, according to Krista Greene, the primary author of the report.
While recycling rates slid throughout Long Island, falling to 24 percent of total waste in 2009 compared to 29 percent in 1998, East Hampton's has fallen more so than others.
Though the drop in recycling may set off alarms, the study's authors said many factors were at play, including a move toward lighter packaging materials in the past decade and better tracking for recycling programs.
“Our study showed a decrease in all curbside recycling programs, which is at least partially the result of more precise accounting of recycling, and changes in materials—for example, the substitution of plastic for heavier materials and lighter packaging in general,” said study co-author R. Lawrence Swanson of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook, in a statement.
Joe Reid, a town sanitation department crew leader who was familiar with the study, agreed that some of the packaging is now lighter, but he said, "I think a lot of people just don't want to be bothered recycling."
The town does not provide collection services, and residents must either pay to have their garbage carted away from their houses or purchase a self-hauler permit for $70.The town has two residential drop-off facilities -- one in and another in . East Hampton Village residents also use the town's facilities.
The lack of concern for recyling concerns Reid and the rest of the sanitation department, he said. "I think what needs to be done is there needs to be a reeducation of the public on how to recycle properly."
According to the study, East Hampton, which covers 74 square miles, brings its mixed containers to Brookhaven's Material Recycling Facility, its paper and cardboard to DeMatteo Salvage in West Babylon, its metals to Gershow Recyling in Medford, and manages its yard waste at the town's composting site.
The bulk of the town's recycling, though, is yard waste such as branches and leaves, making up 5,523 tons in 2009. Paper recycling amounted to 1,204 tons, while curbside pickup of glass, metal and plastic containers was only 928.
The rest of the residential trash is taken to the Brookhaven landfill, where is it burned to create energy.
By municipality, the recycling rates varied from 10 percent in Riverhead to 85 percent in Southampton Town. In fact, towns on the East End generally had higher recycling rates; Southold's was 55 percent and Shelter Island had 63 percent, both of which showed increases.
“There are several explanations for the relatively high recycling rates on the East End of Long Island,” said David Tonjes, an assistant professor in Stony Brook’s Department of Technology and Society who co-authored the report.
“The municipalities with the highest recycling rates—Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold—all have pay-as-you-throw volume based pricing systems in place, in which municipal solid waste may only be disposed of in special, pre-purchased bags. Paying to dispose of garbage, but getting free recycling tends to increase the amount of recyclables collected. Additionally, the presence of drop-off waste management programs, robust composting programs, and possibly some accounting issues may have contributed to the high rates.”
Reid also concurred with the study's reasons on the higher percentage rates in other East End towns. He'd like to see the pre-purchased bags be used in town, though its been the subject much debate in recent years.