We need regional solutions to protect our environment


While many public policies often divide us as a nation, the protection of Mother Earth unites us with a common goal as a society. As Long Islanders, especially Town of Oyster Bay residents, we cherish the surrounding environment and value the importance of clean air, waterways, locally grown food, natural resources, and amazing open space for recreation.

For decades, New York state has been a global leader in recycling and proper waste management. In recent years, however, recycling markets in the United States and worldwide have experienced volatility, leaving recycling operations struggling to find suitable markets for material and impacting solid waste recycling efforts.

Glass is one of the heaviest components of the municipal waste stream, and is extremely costly to transport and process. As a result, many local governments across the country began removing glass from recycling bins, instead putting glass back into the regular waste stream. In the Town of Oyster Bay, we continue to collect glass curbside in recycling bins, but we believe that all towns on Long Island must partner to advocate for more sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges we face today.

Now is the time for Long Island’s 13 towns to develop a regional approach to better recycle and/or beneficially reuse glass. Together with the Island’s largest towns, we have requested that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature allocate $1 million in funding to be earmarked in the fiscal year 2025 state budget for this purpose.

That said, money isn’t the only answer. Due to strict Department of Environmental Conservation standards for use of recycled glass, we asked that the governor direct the department to take a leadership role in coordinating such a regional initiative for Long Island. In September 2023, Newsday reported that the Glass Packaging Institute, a trade group based in Virginia, had expressed an interest in working with Long Island towns to develop an initiative that could speed up development of a centralized processing plant to increase recycling rates, save local governments tens of millions of dollars annually and protect the environment.

Chapter 742 of the Laws of 2021 directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to study alternative municipal uses for recycled glass. Since then, the state has invested millions of dollars in research on new glass production and reuse at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. With years of academic research at the Center of Glass Innovation and DEC studies underway, we are hopeful that a regional approach for Long Island municipalities can be developed to achieve our environmental commitment to reducing landfill waste and CO2 emissions. For instance, the construction of a ground glass pozzolan plant for construction concrete production and product commercialization in the public and private sectors could truly make Long Island a leader on climate action and greener region. For that reason, the aforementioned funding request would assist the state in the initial scoping, siting and design phases for such a regional facility.

By working collaboratively with the Department of Environmental Conservation and using all available resources, Long Island towns can save taxpayer money and enhance residents’ ability to recycle glass — an important objective in the effort to promote sustainability and deliver innovations to serve people everywhere. Together, we must find sustainable solutions for Long Island’s environmental challenges today, and for the future.

Preserving our environment isn’t just a local concern, but a global responsibility. It requires concerted effort, innovative solutions and collective action. With the proposed funding and support from state authorities, we aim to pioneer a model for glass recycling and reuse that can serve as a blueprint for other regions facing similar challenges. Long Island has the potential to lead the way in sustainable waste management practices, setting an example for communities worldwide. As we embark on this journey, let’s remember that every small step counts, and that, together, we can make a significant difference for generations to come.

Joseph Saladino is supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay.