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Study: Despite Leading LI in Recycling Education, TOBAY Recycling Drops

Town recycles 12 percent of its garbage, a Stony Brook study says.

Recycling in the has dropped since 1998, but Oyster Bay remains a leading educator about recycling on Long Island, a new study by Stony Brook University revealed on Tuesday.

According to the study, the Town of Oyster Bay produced 162,616 tons of waste in 2009, with 12 percent, or 20,085 tons of it, being recycled. In 1998, 57 percent of the town's waste was being recycled.

Recycling rates slid throughout Long Island as well, falling to 24 percent of total waste in 2009 compared to 29 percent in 1998.

“We have identified a number of reasons why individual programs may show declining rates, such as more precise accounting of recycling activities, decreases in education efforts and a failure to document all recycling efforts, especially composting and commercial recycling activities," said Krista L. Greene, a graduate student in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook and the report’s lead author.

Oyster Bay's percentage drop is partially because the study did not include commercial recyclables in its assessment. Oyster Bay does not manage waste for 16 of 18 incorporated villages, after the villages opted out of the Town management district in the early 1990s, and the villages use commercial carters for their waste management.

The study says that "Oyster Bay has made a substantial effort to capture commercially-managed recyclables data," but that those numbers were not included in the study because the towns "do not inspect businesses to determine if proper source separation is being undertaken."

Not including the commercial recyclables, recycling dropped 45 percent in the Town since 1998. Including the commercial recyclables, recycling dropped 13 percent since 1998.

In addition, the study named Oyster Bay as one of only two recycling educators in all of Long Island. The Town provides recycling education to any business or school located on a residential recyclables collection route for free. The Town also initiated the first Electronic Waste Recycling Program on Long Island and has a traveling educational display, which is used at about 30 events each year.

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.

According to the study, the Town of Oyster Bay, which covers 104.4 square miles, processes much of its recycling at the Solid Waste Disposal Complex in Old Bethpage.

The bulk of the Town's recycling is containers, making up 8,626 tons in 2009. Paper recycling amounted to 4,400 tons, while curbside pickup of glass and metal was 741 tons.

The Town provides containers for recycling, with pick-up once every week. The Town's recycling vendor changed since 2009, so the Town is anticipating improvements to be made to recycling programs, including expanded recycling efforts in parks and at public events.

"The Town started a curbside yard waste composting program and other improvements have been made to recycling programs," Greene said. "I would suspect that their recycling rate will be a lot higher in 2010 and 2011 since they have the curbside composting program in place."

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