Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: The Long Islander

No Place To Recycle Their Plastic

Lack of curbside program in the Greens, Paumanok raises concerns over fate of recyclables


Posted: April 15, 2009
Originally Published: April 14, 2009

It all started with a letter.

A woman, living at Paumanok Village, a federally subsidized senior citizen community in Greenlawn, wrote to tell The Long-Islander's Aunt Rosie that she loves her community - except for the fact that she doesn't think there's any recycling going on within its fenced and gated grounds.

She thought that because there isn't a dedicated recycling program at hand; it's up to the carting company that takes their garbage away.

The same goes, residents say, at the Greens at Half Hollow, a more than 1,000-unit 55-and-up housing complex in Melville. The same goes, as well, at many other gated communities in the Town of Huntington, including the more than 160 apartments in Paumanok.

"When I first moved in four years ago, I spoke to the powers-that-be [about starting a recycling program] and they said 'we'll take care of it,'" Greens resident Arlene Cohn said. "This is nonsense. I drag and truck my recycling to my daughter's house every week."

A source at JMD Einsidler, the company that manages Paumanok Village and several other Housing and Urban Development-funded housing programs in Huntington, said private carters handle the garbage at Paumanok Village, but there is no standalone recycling program. If all goes according to plan, the source continued, the carting company picks the recyclables out in the sorting process.

If they fail to do so, the carting company is subject to fines, according to Supervisor Frank Petrone, who lives in a gated community himself.

"We spot-check those trucks at the refuse recovery facility. If it has recyclables in it, they're subject to a fine," he said. "It's the responsibility of that carter. If they're commingling, they have to do that separation."

At the Hamlet in Commack, where Petrone lives, there is a weekly rotation of pre-sorted recycling, including paper, plastic and metals, he said.

The problem with post-collection recycling, Adrienne Esposito executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, is two-fold: a lack of oversight in the process and reduced efficiency. Once a recyclable material is contaminated with a foreign substance, it's unsalvageable trash.

"Before the market crashed, the largest money generator is newspaper and white paper," she said. "If you're throwing that in the garbage and it's becoming degraded, you lose that source of revenue and the ability to recycle it."

Carol Leinwand, a four-year resident of the Greens, was a bit more blunt.

"There are a lot of people who have asked [about recycling] and they say it's being done [by the carting company.] I don't believe it for a minute," she said.

"I don't know if I have the greatest confidence that they'll pull it out post-collection, but that's how it works in theory," one source with knowledge of the program at Paumanok said. "They claim they sort at the transfer station, but I don't know the exact process on how that's done."

Fred Smith, the property manager for the Greens at Half Hollow, did not return calls for comment by press time.

Esposito called the lack of curbside recycling in gated communities a "critical gap" in the Town's voluntary recycling programs.

"It's not just in Huntington - it's in Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven and across the island," she said. "I don't know why co-op and condo boards can't work with the town to help them recycle. It seems like a natural fit. We're losing a large amount of [recyclable materials.]

Town Councilman Stuart Besen said it would be difficult to ratchet down on gated communities because the Town's recycling program, affecting its nearly 66,000 households, is well adhered to, but voluntary.

"It's not mandatory for any town resident, so it would be difficult for us to mandate it for a contract between two private enterprises," Besen said.

He said the reason that many people are recycling, without a punitive enforcement arm, is reason enough to keep it voluntary.

"Once you start making it mandatory, there needs to be a penalty and I don't think that's where we want to go," he said. "We want to promote, encourage and teach, but keep it voluntary."

Besen added that the garbage arrangement in communities like Paumanok and the Greens are privately contracted and community management handle their own garbage. The Town has little input in such a contract, and residents should lean on the association to enact stronger recycling rules, he said.

"What they need to do, and I encourage them to do it, is to go to the homeowners association and tell them that the next time they enter into a contract with one of the carters to include a provision for the community," he said. "The Town is very active in recycling, encourages recycling, and I think it would be great to include provisions for recycling."

Regardless, Leinwand argued it's high time for curbside recycling.

"I just came back from Florida and we had the yellow bins - everybody would be so happy to do it. I don't see anybody who would ever protest it."

Leinwand said she'd like to see one day a week designated as a curbside recycling day. "Three days of garbage collection is ridiculous," Cohn added. "Sometimes there are no garbage cans anywhere because there's no garbage."