What goes in the bucket?

“There is nothing that is the center of conversation like recycling right now,” Hewlett Harbor Mayor Mark Weiss said. “You can’t go to a friend’s home, commute on the Long Island Rail Road or sit in a local restaurant without hearing people venting their frustration about the recycling program. The local hair salons, health clubs, nail and bagel shops are all abuzz over concerns about what it is the district wants us to do and how best to do it.”
Since the new state-mandated recycling program was implemented on Jan. 21, there has been much confusion among residents. “We’ve had complaints,” said Lawrence village Trustee Edward Klar, who serves as commissioner of sanitation under Mayor Simon Felder. “People wonder about the concept of having to recycle, given that the plant was doing that previously and that we had the best recycling rate in the state under the existing program. But given that the state has mandated that we have to recycle, our residents want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, much of the information received appears to be incomplete or contradictory as to what needs to be recycled.”
Weiss said he knows that the management and staff in District 1 want to do what’s best for the community, and that residents do not want to create more work than necessary for the collectors. He pointed out that the program needs better explanation, specific details and, in some cases, adjustments in scheduling. “The instructions were just not clear,” Weiss said. “Not a day has gone by since the program was announced that I don’t hear complaints about the lack of clarity on the part of residents regarding what items must be recycled, what should not be recycled, the proper packaging of the recyclables and the required cleanliness of the items put aside for recycling.”
The enhanced rear-yard-collection program requires homeownes to separate recyclables (newspapers, bottles, cans, etc.), but the district continues to use the Materials Recovery Facility, which has been in place since 1995. All waste collected by the district passes through the facility, where, through mechanical and manual methods, recyclable materials — newspaper, mixed paper, corrugated cardboard, mixed plastics, metals and wood — are recovered. Combined with the existing program, recycling in the district is expected to increase even further, according to the sanitary district’s Web site.
“Sanitary District No. 1 Commissioners must have spent many sleepless nights devising their new plan to inconvenience the 18,000 households with their new recycling plan,” Woodmere resident Raymond Boni said. “And what for? We have, at present, a recycling facility operating satisfactorily in all aspects.”
According to the district’s Web site, all paper, cardboard, plastic cans and bottles, and metal cans should be placed in the yellow recyclables-only containers that were provided to homes and commercial and institutional properties in Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Harbor, Hewlett Neck, Inwood, Lawrence, Woodmere, Woodsburgh and portions of the unincorporated areas of Lynbrook and Green Acres. All recyclable materials should be co-mingled. All other materials, including glass, should be discarded with regular household waste.
“I think that the confusion, if any, which may have arisen is attributable to the fact that a number of items have been excluded from recycling,” said Nat Swergold, general counsel to the sanitary district’s Board of Commissioners.
Representatives of the sanitary district recently gave a video and slide-show presentation at Temple Hillel in North Woodmere on the recycling program, which included a question-and-answer session for the nearly 50 residents who attended. Board of Commissioners Chairman Irving J. Kaminetsky gave an overview, while Assistant Superintendent George Pappas explained the program’s details.
“We appreciated the opportunity we had to provide information to Temple Hillel members and local residents,” Kaminetsky said. “It is our goal to give residents all the information they need and to answer all the questions they have about our recycling program. The commissioners and staff of Sanitary District No. 1 are committed to making the enhanced recycling program a model for other municipalities to follow. The success of this program depends on the support and participation of residents.”
One resident is Rabbi Steven M. Graber, spiritual leader of Temple Hillel, who lives in Valley Stream. “The facilitators of the program were all knowledgeable,” Graber said. “They took turns answering questions, and I think at the end of the presentation everyone was a lot clearer on how to recycle than they were before. The district representatives gave suggestions as to how to make the recycling process easier.”
Another informational session will take place at the March 12 Lawrence Board of Trustees meeting, where a representative from the sanitary district will answer questions. “I think there needs to be better communication from the sanitary district to the residents of the district as to what needs to be recycled,” Klar said. “And I think there needs to be much more frequent pickup of recyclables so that residents don’t have to store them for two weeks. I further think that these issues can be worked out. It’s just a matter of communication.”
Weiss is calling on Phil Mistero, the sanitation district’s superintendent, to organize a district-wide “recycling summit” so that area mayors and civic leaders can have a meaningful and productive dialogue about the problems residents are having with the program. “A recycling summit would allow for an exchange of ideas that I’m sure will add to the program’s success,” Weiss said. “Against a backdrop of pending state, county and local municipality cutbacks, the time is right to get community input on recycling so as to be sure that the recycling program is running as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Residents of the district with questions about the program or who want to sign up for recycling updates can call the Recycling Hotline, (516) 239-3606, go to the district’s Web site, sanitarydistrict1.com, or e-mail recycling@sanitarydistrict1.com.
Comments about this story? PShapiro@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 201.