Suffolk County is expected to begin 2020 focusing on one of most pressing environmental issues that emerged during 2019, following the passage this week of legislation to create a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force. The bill, sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee, will put together the 17 member advisory group comprised of municipal recycling professionals, County agencies and environmental advocates to review existing recycling programs, develop a strategy for increasing the efficiency of recycling regionally, and to develop mechanisms to encourage the streamlining of the local recycling process. Currently, recycling in Suffolk County is handled through a patch work of programs administered by local townships.
“Waste management is a global issue that, for far too long, we have viewed through the most local of prisms. The challenges confronting recycling programs from town to town are the same as the ones that confront all of us in Suffolk County, across this nation and beyond,” said Legislator Hahn. “It is time for us to consider recyclable solid waste for the large scale issue it is rather than just the curbside nuisance we have long thought it to be.”
The decision to evaluate local recycling efforts is coming during an especially opportune time following the disruption to global recycling programs resulting from China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by that nation’s recycling processors. The resulting jolt from what was the world’s largest importer of post-consumer plastic waste’s policy change culminated with a number of programs altering, reducing or eliminating recycling earlier this year.
“Long Island is in the midst of a waste crisis,” said Adrienne Esposito from Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment. “We need to work holistically to identify potential collaborations and solutions to recycling programs and reduction of waste. In 2020 let’s change our mindset and think of our recyclable materials as a resource, not a waste product. Suffolk County has a patchwork of recycling programs run by the towns and villages that can leave the public confused over which items are recyclable. Municipalities are struggling to find viable markets for glass and some plastics. CCE applauds Legislator Hahn for her leadership in putting together a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force, which can identify challenges and opportunities for Suffolk County to improve waste management and our recycling programs.”
The bill now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature. Once signed, the task force will have until the end of 2020 to issue its recommendations.