COMPILED BY JOHN JOSEPH PARKER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
RECYCLING HAS FAR-REACHING environmental and economic impacts that help reduce the need for new landfills and incinerators. In addition, a National Recycling Coalition report found that the recycling and reuse industry adds almost $6 billion annually to New Jersey’s economy. “It is important to remember that recyclable materials are not trash, but rather valuable raw materials used to make new products,” explains New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.
An economic impact study by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries showed that the nation’s scrap recycling industry is similar in scope to that of the radio and TV broadcasting, building services, and warehousing and storage industries.
“New Jersey has been a national leader in recycling for more than 30 years because we recognize the positive impacts recycling has on our environment, economy and efforts to protect and conserve natural resources,” adds Francis Steitz, NJDEP Acting Assistant Commissioner for Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability. “We remind the public that recycling keeps communities clean, safeguards public health and improves the overall quality of life. This is one way everyone can make a real difference every day to protect the environment.”
In 1987, New Jersey became the first state to make recycling mandatory, adopting the Statewide Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act. The law requires recycling in residential, commercial and institutional settings.
New Jersey achieved an overall recycling rate of 61 percent in 2016—the most recent year for which data is available—and remains a national leader in recycling. The NJDEP administers several grant and educational programs on behalf of recycling.
As part of recycling, it is important to keep nonrecyclable items such as plastic bags, propane tanks and used syringes out of curbside and workplace recycling bins. Recyclable items are valuable raw materials used to make new products and should not be mixed with other materials.
“For recycling to work, we need to keep our recycling mix clean and free of problematic items,” explains Commissioner McCabe.
The NJDEP and the Association of New Jersey Recyclers co-sponsor annual recycling awards that are presented to outstanding businesses, organizations, local government agencies, and individuals who have made significant contributions to recycling in New Jersey. Here are just two examples from the most recent class of honorees.
IKEA Distribution Services North America “recycles materials including bottles and cans, paper, corrugated cardboard, metal, plastics, shrink wrap, strapping, mattresses and wooden pallets. Food waste from the facility’s staff café is collected and composted off-site. In addition, damaged glass, candles and ceramics are sent to a facility that pulverizes the materials into a powder that is used to reinforce concrete. As a result of these efforts, IKEA was able to recycle 77.5 percent of its waste. To ensure that recycling and sustainability programs are working well, IKEA does biweekly site audits to document progress or note areas needing improvement. The business regularly educates employees about recycling and sustainability programs and goals.”
Monmouth University “has a broad-based program to recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, paper, corrugated cardboard, metal, tires, yard waste, concrete, light bulbs, batteries, used oil, antifreeze, electronic waste, toner cartridges and more. The university also donates old electronic equipment, clothes and books to charitable organizations and has installed water hydration stations to encourage use of reusable containers. As a result of these initiatives, the university was able to recycle 46 percent of the waste generated on campus in 2018. The school also purchases green cleaning products and recycled content products for campus operations.”