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Report finds differing rules, inconsistent packaging hamper recycling on Long Island

Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Enviroment explains how some product packaging — for the same products from the same company — is not consistently recyclable.
Desiree D'Iorio
/
WSHU
Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Enviroment explains how some product packaging — for the same products from the same company — is not consistently recyclable.

Recycling plastic waste on Long Island can be confusing for consumers, but it's not their fault, according to a report by the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

The Long Island-based environmental group surveyed 25 municipalities across Nassau and Suffolk counties and found different rules depending on location. For example, in the towns of Babylon and Southampton, plastics marked with a "6" inside the triangular arrow symbol, often found on items like Styrofoam or disposable party cups and cutlery, are not recyclable. But in the Village of Patchogue and the Town of Oyster Bay, those same items are accepted.

Black plastic containers might contain a recycling symbol with a number, but in most cases they're not recyclable at all.

“Recycling should be easier," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, unveiling the report Tuesday. "Recycling should be convenient, and recycling should be understandable and doable. And we have a chaotic system on Long Island.”

To complicate matters, Esposito said similar products, packaged by the same company, often do not uniformly use recyclable material.

The end result is that 20% of potential recyclable waste does not get properly recycled every year.

"It is not the public’s fault that recycling is not happening correctly," she said. "In fact, it is the producer's and the manufacturer's fault.” 

She urged lawmakers in Albany to quickly pass legislation that would force manufacturers to use less plastic overall and only use plastic that can be recycled.

The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act would shift responsibility to manufacturers, according to Jordan Christensen, Citizen Campaign for the Environment's program coordinator.

"It places the burden of dealing with this problem and the cost of dealing with this problem back on the manufacturers and off the backs of our local government and the taxpayers," Christensen said.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.