Village suspends recycling amid coronavirus disruptions


The Village of Valley Stream  is suspending  its recycling program indefinitely starting Monday after the vendor it contracts with  warned that due to fears of coronavirus infection from the items it handles, it would begin exclusively accepting certain materials. 

In a March 26 letter sent to Sanitation Department Supervisor Brian Leavey, Anthony Core, president of the Westbury-based Omni Recycling, wrote that due to the manpower required to sort recyclable materials that have been contaminated, meaning they are mixed with items that are not or no longer able to be reprocessed, and a lack of protective gear for its workers, the vendor is only accepting:

  • No. 1 and 2 plastics
  • Tin and aluminum cans
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Metal pots and pans
  • Glass bottles and jars

The village had already begun mandating residents reduce the types of recyclables they were putting in their bins to the above mentioned items in January following complaints from Omni and threats of increased recycling fees.

Now, however, the firm is requiring that loads of recyclables from the village contain zero contamination or otherwise risk a disposal fee of $80 per ton for which the items would be discarded as trash. As a result, the village is suspending recycling services for residents altogether. 

According to Core, the problem stems from the need for recycling plant workers to stand in close proximity to eachother while sorting various recyclables, or "commingled," as he refers to them. That need, he wrote, is increased when the recyclables are contaminated with items that are either non-recyclable or no longer able to be recycled under current market conditions.  

Additionally, Core claims that Omni is struggling to operate after a number of its workers have been sickened by the virus due to the ability of Covid-19  to stick to the surface of items they routinely handle, and, scientists believe, remain alive for days. Additionally, the company is struggling to  restock its supply of protective equipment, he wrote, much of which is similar to the type doctors, nurses and emergency medical first responders use.