State Recycling Probe Uncovers Abuses

Attorney General Spitzer today announced agreements with four private waste haulers accused of violating state recycling laws.

The settlements, which will improve and enhance curbside recycling programs, came after a nine-month investigation that revealed that some waste haulers were mixing recyclables and garbage in violation of state law.

"New Yorkers in every corner of the state support recycling every day by separating their bottles, cans and newsprint from other trash," said Spitzer. "Citizens expect and deserve that waste haulers will do their part in complying fully with the state's recycling law."

As part of the settlements, waste haulers will be required to implement new policies to ensure that recyclables are not mixed with garbage. In addition, waste haulers will be required to refund money to municipal and residential customers and enhance consumer education efforts.

The companies involved are: Casella Waste Systems, Inc. of Rutland, Vermont; Vets Disposal Inc. of Oneonta; Waste Stream Inc. of Ithaca; and County Waste and Recycling, Inc. of Clifton Park. Vets Disposal and Waste Stream are affiliated with Casella.

The Attorney General's investigation revealed that at various times between January 1998 and May 2000, Vets Disposal and Waste Stream landfilled recyclables that were collected from residential customers in Delaware, Franklin, Oneida and Herkimer counties. The customers paid for, but did not consistently receive, recycling services.

The companies signed an agreement with the Attorney General's office ensuring that they:

  • will not mix recyclables with garbage;
  • will adopt a code of conduct for their employees guaranteeing that recyclables and garbage will not be mixed;
  • will fully implement recycling when new routes and new haulers are acquired, and;
  • will provide greater customer education about the companies' recycling programs.
This code of conduct covers Casella Waste Systems and all of its subsidiaries statewide.

The agreement also compels Casella, Vets and Waste Stream to reimburse a total of $90,000 to some 2,000 customers. Some customers in Delaware, Oneida and Herkimer Counties are entitled to rebates and will be contacted by their waste hauler if they are on the routes covered by this agreement. In addition, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe will be reimbursed $1,350 for collection services in tribal buildings in Franklin County.

The Attorney General also announced a separate settlement with Clifton Park-based County Waste and Recycling, Inc. for allegedly landfilling recyclables from April to October 1999. Under the agreement, County Waste will pay $5,000 to the Town of Clifton Park; $2,500 to the Town of Malta for household hazardous waste collection programs and $2,500 to the Town of Stillwater. The company will also send recycling educational information to its customers; operate free of charge a bulk trash and recyclables drop-off center for the Town of Stillwater; and provide customers with a yard waste composting programs seven months of the year.

Separately, Spitzer announced that he has withdrawn a lawsuit against the City of Amsterdam, following the resumption of a citywide recycling program. The Montgomery County community had discontinued recycling last year in violation of state law. In May of 1999, Spitzer put local officials on notice that if they did not take immediate steps to restart its recycling program, he would be left with no other option than to sue the city. In June, Spitzer filed suit in State Supreme Court in Montgomery County. After continued negotiations, the city contracted with Spohn's Disposal Services, Inc. and resumed its recycling program on Nov. 2, 2000. Today, Spitzer withdrew his court action and commended the city for coming back into compliance with the state recycling law.

"It is long-awaited good news for residents of Amsterdam that the city has reinstated a curbside recycling program," said Spitzer. "I have every expectation that the city will now comply fully with the state recycling law."

The recycling enforcement cases were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Robert Rosenthal and Michael Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau.