How does your county rank?
During the 1990s, more than 50% of municipal waste in the Garden State was recycled, but since then our numbers have dropped.
Today, the combined municipal recycling rate in New Jersey has fallen below 40%, but in many ways recycling is much more complex than before.
For years, many kinds of waste, especially plastic containers, were all shipped to China for recycling, but as of 2018, the Chinese no longer accept many recyclable materials from the United States, which means New Jersey cities and counties had been paying to get rid of their recyclables suddenly have to start paying to have the materials recycled.
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said that while Garden State’s recycling rate is better than some other states, it’s not where it should be.
There is no trash fairy
“Every ton of trash that isn’t recycled goes somewhere. There’s no trash fairy, so either it goes to a landfill or it ends up being burned in an incinerator in our community,” a- he declared.
Recycling is uneven
He said some New Jersey counties have adopted a county-wide recycling program, but the materials that are ultimately collected for recycling may differ from city to city.
“Some cities require dual-stream recycling where you have to separate your glass and paper and plastics, and some counties and cities only have a direct single-stream method where they will sort after the materials are collected,” did he declare.
The state Department of Environmental Protection tracks recycling efforts in every county, and some are more successful than others.
In North Jersey, the leader is Bergen County. Mercer and Middlesex are doing well in central Jersey. Cape May and Cumberland score highest in South Jersey.
Counties that are facing recycling issues include Hunterdon, Hudson, Union and Atlantic.
To see how your county is ranked by DEP for recycling, you can look here.
O’Malley pointed out that recycling coordinators in different parts of the state oversee different programs, while reminding local residents “that recycling isn’t just a good thing that someone else is doing, it’s is a good thing that everyone should do”.
Do not be shy
He said to increase the amount of material that will be recycled in Jersey, local residents should start asking questions
“Do you have a recycling coordinator in your city, and does that person go there and educate more people in the community, and is there an enforcement if people don’t recycle ?”
He said some Jersey residents end up ‘wanting to cycle’, putting things in the recycling bin that they would like to think should be recycled, such as a bowling ball, but are actually not materials. recyclable, which slows down the whole recycling process.
“Only 5% of plastics are recycled in this country, so just because something is recyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled,” O’Malley said.
Information about residential and commercial recycling in New Jersey, including what you can recycle in your city and county, is available here.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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