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Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Agencies launch recycling program at Shinnecock commercial dock

Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PM

Some of the fishing gear strewn about the parking lot at the Shinnecock Commercial Fishing Dock on Dune Road in Hampton Bays is still usable, while a good number of nets, pots and crates are not.

Rather than dump derelict gear in trash cans and send it to rot in landfills, or return marine debris back to the ocean, East End fishermen can now toss it in a Dumpster located at the fishing dock. That stock of useless metal and debris will eventually be recycled, or burned in an incinerator and used to generate electricity, all at no cost to Southampton Town, thanks to a new Fishing for Energy program that kicked off at the commercial dock on Friday, November 13.

“It’s doing good for the environment and the community,” said Lynn Dwyer, the assistant director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s northeast and eastern partnership office. “It’s a good day for Long Island.”

Fishing for Energy provides free receptacles at fishing ports so fishermen can deposit old and useless fishing gear, and any garbage that they “catch” while fishing. The program, which started in 2008, is sponsored by Covanta Energy Corporation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. Southampton Town and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County are also local partners.

The recycling spot at the Shinnecock dock is the first such facility on Long Island, and the 17th collection site in the United States, according to officials. The bulk of the recycling sites are located between Maine and New Jersey, and there is one in Oregon.

Organizers said that some nearly 200 tons of old fishing gear and marine debris have been collected since the initiative was launched.

The marine debris and old gear left behind at Southampton Town’s commercial dock are a problem, according to Allyn Jackson, the superintendant of parks and recreation for the municipality.

“We do need a way to get rid of excess gear,” Mr. Jackson said during Friday’s press conference at the dock.

At the commercial facility, fishermen will now be able to make an appointment with the town’s parks department to access the Dumpster. Currently, it is sitting uncovered in the parking lot, but it will soon be locked up so officials can monitor what goes in it. They want to keep out junk that cannot be recycled, like household garbage and bedding, Mr. Jackson said.

Once the Dumpster is full, Covanta Energy will remove its contents free of charge. Any big chunks of metal will be shipped to PK Metals in Coram so they be broken down, while other metal scraps and recyclable waste will go to the Covanta plant in Hempstead, according to John Waffenschmidt, the vice president of environmental science and community affairs at Covanta Energy.

There, the scrap metal will get recycled and put back on the market, while the other waste will be incinerated. Scientists will trap the heat created by that process and turn it into electricity. One ton of garbage generates about 600 kilowatts of electricity, enough energy to power 60,000 homes, Mr. Waffenschmidt said.

The recycling bins are not just for the fishing gear that breaks with age or overuse; they are also for the marine debris that fishermen may find tangled in their nets.

“There’s a lot of junk that ends up in the ocean,” said Emerson Hasbrouck, program director of the marine program at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

In the past, fishermen would either simply throw that debris back overboard or let it sit in a pile on their boat until they returned to shore. Local fishermen are looking forward to the program, Mr. Hasbrouck added.

“They’re encouraged to have a way to dispose their gear,” he said. “Especially if it’s free of charge.”

Mr. Hasbrouck said he is now talking with others and investigating the possibility of establishing a similar recycling site in Montauk.

Fishing for Energy helps the environment in two ways, according to Mr. Waffenschmidt. First, it keeps garbage, which would otherwise rot and break down into harmful methane gas, out of local landfills.

Second, the program keeps trash out of the water. Marine debris can hurt fish and other aquatic species, cause hazardous navigation conditions, and can roll along the bottom of the ocean and destroy habitat, said Sarah Morison, a program coordinator at NOAA’s Marine Debris Division.

“Having it in the water is just bad,” Ms. Morison said.

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