LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WILL SHARE $14.3 million in grants to further enhance recycling efforts, based on 2016 recycling performance in their communities, according to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.
The recycling tonnage grants are awarded through the state’s Recycling Enhancement Act and are funded through a $3 per-ton surcharge on trash disposed at solid waste facilities statewide. The NJDEP then allocates that money back to municipalities based on how much recycling each community reports accomplishing during a particular calendar year.
“Each of us can have a significant impact on the environment simply by recycling every day,” explains NJDEP Commissioner McCabe. “Recycling helps keep our communities clean, generates revenue and jobs and lessens the amount of trash going to landfills. These grants will help communities continue the important work of promoting the benefits of recycling and having a positive impact on New Jersey’s quality of life.”
Grants are based on materials collected and recycled in a municipality or county. The grants are to be used to further improve a community’s recycling rate either by funding a recycling coordinator position, sponsoring household hazardous waste collection events, providing recycling receptacles and pickup in public places, maintaining leaf composting operations, doing educational outreach about the importance of recycling or implementing curbside recycling pickup programs.
For calendar year 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, New Jersey generated 9.7 million tons of municipal solid waste, with 4.26 million tons recycled and 5.4 million tons disposed. This resulted in a slight increase in the recycling rate, to 44 percent, from the year prior. New Jersey’s recycling rate exceeds the national recycling rate average of 34 percent but is below the state’s recycling goal of 50 percent.
Overall, New Jersey in 2016 generated 22.6 million tons of solid waste, which includes municipal waste plus construction debris and other types of non-municipal waste. Of the total collected, 13.9 million tons were recycled, and 8.7 million tons were disposed, for an overall recycling rate of 61 percent. The overall rate for 2015 was 63 percent.
“New Jersey remains a national leader in recycling more than 30 years after becoming the first state in the nation to mandate recycling on a state-wide basis,” explains NJDEP Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation and Waste Management Mark Pedersen. “We are pleased to see so many com-munities recycling and expect that the grants will further their efforts to educate the public of the importance in keeping our environment clean. We remain committed to achieving a 50 percent municipal solid waste recycling rate in New Jersey.”
Scientists from MIT Discuss the Future of Recycling Aluminum
Aluminum has long been the poster child of recycling. About half of all aluminum used in the United States is now recycled, and this recycling has clear and dramatic benefits. Pound for pound, it takes anywhere from nine to 18 times as much energy to produce aluminum from raw ore as from recycled material.
Since this process works so well, aluminum recycling continues to expand. But this expansion could run into problems, an MIT analysis shows, unless measures are put in place to reduce impurities that can build up as aluminum is recycled over and over again—everything from paint and labels on cans to other metals that are accidentally mixed in.
Such impurities will continue to add up, the MIT researchers say, unless extra measures are taken during sorting of the recycled goods, or during their molten processing. MIT researchers Randolph Kirchain and Elsa Olivetti, of the Materials Systems Lab, along with Gabrielle Gaustad of the Rochester Institute of Technology, published their findings in the journal, Resources, Conservation and Recycling.
A major aluminum producer requested this analysis to help decide whether to install improved separation systems to prepare for impurities that could become more serious over time.
“They couldn’t make the business case based on what’s happening today,” explains Kirchain, but his team’s analysis showed that it would indeed make sense to install such systems in anticipation of future changes.
For now, the problem remains manageable because different uses require different grades of aluminum, Kirchain says. For example, aluminum engine blocks, one major market for recycled material, can be made from metal with relatively high levels of impurities without suffering any loss of performance or durability. But more specialized applications such as electronic circuits or aerospace materials require much higher purity.
“There is a huge range of impurity tolerance,” Olivetti explains. “The question is how will the balance of such markets over time compare with the kinds of materials coming through the recycling stream?”
The study found many techniques available to reduce impurities in recycled aluminum. In some cases, these technologies are simply extensions of those already used in the initial separation of aluminum from raw ore; others are extensions of processes used to separate different materials in the recycling stream. Most of these systems are difficult to add as retrofits to existing plants, the study found, so it makes more economic sense to add them as new plants are built—even if they are not yet needed.
“We’re continuing to collect more and more scrap,” Kirchain says, which suggests that “we’re likely to have more and more problems” with accumulating impurities. So far, the operators of aluminum smelting plants have been able to accommodate variations in quality.
“If material comes in that’s more contaminated, they’ll divert that toward more forgiving applications,” Kirchain notes. The cleanest material is reserved for the most specialized applications, such as airplane parts.
Kirchain says his team’s analysis, although directed specifically at aluminum, is also an attempt to develop methods for analyzing the lifecycle of other materials that are becoming more signif-icant parts of the recycling stream. And it includes analysis of the social factors governing people’s decisions on disposal of materials, which can affect how much contaminating material ends up in a given waste stream—or whether potentially useful material ends up in a landfill instead of being reused.