For the past several years, recycling programs in New Jersey have been turned upside down because of a change in how the material is handled.

China, the country that had been receiving the majority of recycled material from New Jersey for decades, recently tightened requirements and is now rejecting many recyclables that are contaminated by food and other waste.

The change has made disposal of recycled material more difficult and costly for towns across the Garden State, and some of them have changed their policies and are now collecting fewer recycling items.

One New Jersey lawmaker believes efforts must be ramped up to improve the recycling landscape and give municipalities more recycling options.

State Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, says one measure to be considered by his panel on Monday — S3939 — calls for the establishment of a Recycling Market Development Council. The group would investigate and report on existing markets that process, reuse or recycle collected materials and look at how to stimulate the use of collected recyclables in newly manufactured products.

A second measure that will be introduced — S3944 — calls for a New Jersey Recycling Stream Improvement Task Force. The mission would be to study and make recommendations concerning recycling streams in the Garden state and challenges faced by local governments in running their recycling programs.

“The point of these bills is to put together some of the smartest people in the state to start to develop new markets for recycled materials," Smith said.

“New Jersey residents are doing a good job of recycling but the price paid for these materials is going down and down and that’s making it very expensive for counties and towns to do recycling.”

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Smith said recycling has become “a huge money loser” and we need to at least make it money neutral.

He pointed out recycling is an evolving industry but “you need people who need to look all over the country and all over the world to see what’s being recycled and how it’s being used and what are the new technologies so that we can make sure that our state is up to date.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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