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Talking Trash With Winters Bros.!

There is nothing sexy about waste management. It’s not a topic you bring up on a first date or pull out of your bag of tricks at a dinner party. But maybe we should talk about it more because it has to go somewhere and we owe it to ourselves to understand what exactly happens to our garbage after it is picked up from the curb.

 

It’s Monday night. You roll your garbage pail down the driveway and leave it for the morning pick-up. When you wake up Tuesday morning, the cans are empty and you dont give it another thought.

 

But where did it go exactly?

 

To better understand this complicated topic, Will Flower, Senior Vice President of Corporate & Public Affairs for Winters Bros. Waste Systems – one of Long Island’s leading waste management companies with a history dating back to the 1950’s recently joined us on The Mike LiPetri Show to share his expertise, and just as important, provide a warning and some tangible steps all of us can take to help address this crisis.

 

According to Will, our garbage is taken to one of two places once picked up from the curb. Either an incinerator where it is safely burned or a transfer station where it is sorted through and shipped off Long Island. There are currently four incinerators across Nassau and Suffolk County with the largest one being in the Town of Hempstead. Trash at these facilities is burned and turned into usable electricity. The remaining ash that is not moved off-island is generally buried at the Brookhaven landfill. Waste that is processed at a transfer type facility is sorted through via both manual labor and the use of machines. Items that can be recycled are processed accordingly and the remainder is moved off Long Island via both truck and train.

 

Seems simple enough, right? It's a complex public-private system that must always be firing on all cylinders because we humans simply do not stop producing trash. Just on Long Island, residents produce more than 14 million pounds of municipal solid waste each day and there is nearly another 30 million pounds of construction & demolition (C&D) waste produced each day. Of this, only about 20% of residential waste is recycled compared to nearly 70% of C&D waste which is repurposed.

 

There is one problem though. That Brookhaven landfill is set to close at the end of 2024 and, at that time, the vast majority of waste will need to be transported off Long Island. Currently, over 90% of the waste that leaves Long Island is transported by truck and just 9% via railway. This puts a major strain on our local infrastructure in the form of additional traffic and the deterioration of roadways. Not to mention, the health and environmental risks associated with truck emissions. Rail is a far more safe, efficient, and effective system for moving trash, but Long Island simply does not have the infrastructure to support it currently. 

 

Enhancing infrastructure and improving logistics is just one approach we can take to start addressing this problem. According to Will Flower, we need to also rethink how we approach waste management individually and that’s why, for companies like Winters Bros., education is a major part of their mission.  At the end of the day, the long-term solution to this problem will be our own personal approach to how we think about trash, and ideally, a move towards zero-waste consumer habits. While this may sound overwhelming or even an unfair burden, there are small steps we can take today to have a greater impact tomorrow.

 

Many of us have a junk drawer at home filled with paperclips, dried out pens, random receipts, and who knows what else. Chances are though if you dig past the junk you’ll likely find an old tablet or your original smart phone sitting at the bottom. These items contain lithium batteries and despite them having become a necessity in modern daily life to power endless devices, they must be disposed of properly to avoid potentially deadly fires and environmental risks.

 

Through community education efforts, Winters Bros. strives to educate consumers on these risks and present safe alternatives. Unlike traditional alkaline batteries (AA/AAA), lithium batteries cannot be trashed and are at risk of combusting if compacted by waste removal trucks. The correct approach here is to seal your lithium battery in a plastic bag and bring it to a designated retail drop-off location for safe disposal management. To find a location near you, please visit www.call2recycle.org and enter your zip code.

 

Waste management is a dirty topic, but one we all have a vested interest in talking about and doing our part towards finding a solution. Will Flower said it best. “Garbage is the universal equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, doesn’t matter what race you are or what type of business or home you have – the fact of the matter is that you and everyone in your family generates garbage.” 

 

Hopefully, by continuing to talk about it, or at least remaining open minded and taking small steps to make a difference, we can ensure our communities reman safe, healthy, and garbage-free for decades to come.




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