Looking past recycling hiccups
A photo of the recyclables collected on the church lawn.

Courtesy photos

Looking past recycling hiccups

Story By: NICOLE ALLEGREZZA
7/13/2017


Despite the early rain, great weather made for a successful first Alive After Five® of the summer season on Main Street in Patchogue Village on July 6. About 20,000 came to drink, eat and have fun. However, the newly initiated efforts to recycle solely plastic drinking cups were not so successful.

Last week, the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter of the Patchogue Congregational Church was happy to announce the progress that was made to recycle at Alive After Five® after a meeting with the chair of the event, James Skidmore, who agreed to help collect some of the 25,000 or so plastic drinking cups.

Skidmore arranged for participating venues to bag recyclable cups and Patchogue “waste warriors” would make regular sweeps of the venues, collecting bags of recyclable cups and bringing them to the lawn of the church. The village agreed to collect the recyclables from the lawn of the church the following day. 

According to Wolter, the plan was somewhat of a failure being there was little to no venue participation. Staffers, he said, were confused or unaware of the initiative and times and locations of recycling pickups and drop-offs were poorly communicated. He said instead, garbage was tossed in the recyclable material bags, leaving the waste warriors to dig through the trash to separate out the recyclables. Also, there were limited volunteers.

But, the initiative still happened, and is only the beginning. “Even a feeble beginning is progress that should be celebrated,” said Wolter.

Skidmore said it’s not as simple as just organizing a recycling program but more so changing the way people and businesses think. “It’s a much bigger issue than just Alive After Five®,” he said. “We could put something into effect, but there is no way to enforce it; the people have to step up to the plate.”

Though recycling is seen as a much-needed priority, village DPW superintendent Joe Dean said it is often done without even realizing it. He said businesses hire carting companies to take away their trash. Those companies, he explained, know the value of the trash and are known to separate the trash and collect recyclable items for profit.

“These businesses are recycling, whether they are aware of it or not,” he said. “For anyone to say the village doesn’t recycle in the business district just shows how little they know about the industry.”

However, moving forward, Skidmore and Wolter will meet once again to learn from the mistakes, make some adjustments and hopefully see greater success during the next Alive After Five® to be held on Thursday, July 20. Then next year, Skidmore said he hopes to have a solid plan in place for proper recycling during the event.

Wolter said he also hopes to see more volunteers and assistance from elected officials. He said that they intend to seek other remedies, such as a potential partnership between the Business Improvement District, Village of Patchogue, Greater Chamber of Commerce and Congregational Church of Patchogue to explore the possibility of allocating or raising funds to purchase recycle containers for the village and arranging for the pickup of the containers. 

“We also hope to increase the buy-in from businesses that generate the vast majority of the waste and recyclables in the first place,” he added. “Recycling is not only ethically correct, it is also good customer relations in an age when people care more about the environment.”

Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy said he and the chamber would be happy to support some sort of partnership to raise money for recycling bins.

“Whatever Dwight moves forward with, he can count on the chamber to work with him,” he said. “This is just the first step in the right direction.”

Joe Keyes, village trustee and leader of the Protecting the Environment of Patchogue committee, said they very recently received about 40 recycling bins to be placed at the parks in the village. Those bins, he said, were awarded from a Snapple/Dr. Pepper grant requiring that they be placed at park sites. However, he said, the committee has been working on acquiring funding to purchase bins for Main Street.

Although the effort was a bit unsuccessful to start, Wolter said about a dozen people and children volunteered and about 10 bags of garbage was effectively collected.

“The case has been made on this glaring issue, now it needs to get done,” he added. “It’s not just about putting on plastic gloves but about pulling together to get a system in place to deal with this treatable problem.”