⚫ NJ recycling has been stuck in the doldrums for years

⚫ Recycling has become more difficult but what’s the price of not recycling?

⚫  How to get specific information about recycling for your local town

When you buy a product at a supermarket, online or at a retail store and the packaging says “recyclable” you might imagine that if you put it in a recycling bin it will wind up getting recycled.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in more instances than you might imagine.

According to Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, the Garden State is stuck in the recycling doldrums because most recycling products are no longer shipped to China, so it’s a lot more difficult to find recycling venders for all types of materials.


NJ recycling not what it used to be

He said when the state’s recycling law first took effect more than 35 years ago our compliance was higher than 50%, but in recent years the recycling rate has dropped to around 39%, for multiple reasons.

“First is that people don’t recycle in the first place. Second is what is labeled as recyclable might not actually be able to be recycled by your municipality or county.”

He said another reason is when people mix garbage with recycling, in some cases separation and cleaning costs are so high the material winds up being treated as regular waste.

O’Malley said because recycling costs have shot higher, towns and counties across the Garden State are only allowing plastics with a recycling logo number with a 1 or a 2.

Sergey Nivens
Sergey Nivens

There's no trash fairy

He said we need to remember “there’s no trash fairy that magically zings our trash and recycling and makes it go away. The cost of recycling, though it has increased, if we’re not recycling it means that towns are paying more to cart away trash.”

Up in smoke

He said if material isn’t recycled, it winds up in a landfill or burned.

“We have three incinerators in the state in Newark, Camden and Rahway, and those incinerators are a blight on those local communities. They’re a blight on public health.”

O’Malley said recycling in New Jersey needs to be reinvigorated with increased funding to ensure people understand what happens if material is not recycled.

“We need to make sure we’re still incentivizing towns to have a clean recycling stream and to make sure that what winds up in the blue bin actually gets recycled,” he said.

Smiling woman carrying recycling bin
Brand X Pictures

What’s your next step?

He said you can get specific information about what you should and should not be recycling, depending where you live, by visiting the New Jersey DEP website.

“We’re not asking residents to have a Ph.D. in recycling; we’re asking people to use the blue bin. Put it out.”

“We also need more increased funding at the town, county and state level to make sure that towns and counties have the resources to let people know about this program.”

At the same time, he said companies are also being asked to do their fair share and cut down on the amount of packaging material that’s used while producing more material that is more easily recycled.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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