Plastic Bags Are Biggest Problem
Ocean County officials are emphasizing to municipalities and residents the importance of keeping non-recyclables out of the mixed recycling stream.
“Clean recycling materials,” noted Donna E. Flynn, public information director for the county. “Start at the curb.”
Beginning this year, haulers have been instructed to be more strict when collecting household recyclables, which means, in part, slapping a violation notice on recycling bins that are contaminated with trash.
“It is more important than ever that we recycle the proper materials and not add household trash to our recycling bins,” said Freeholder Gary Quinn, liaison to the county recycling program. “We are asking everyone to be more mindful of the materials they recycle and to especially not use plastic bags, which have created extensive problems at our processing facility. Recyclables should not be placed in plastic bags, nor should the plastic bags be tossed into recycling bins. In terms of contamination, plastic bags getting into the recycling stream is certainly the biggest problem area where help from our residents can make an immediate difference.”
As Flynn pointed out, “Recycling loads entering Ocean County’s two regional recycling facilities are being reviewed for potentially contaminating materials, including the plastic bags, household trash and other non-recyclable items. This review, which could lead to the possible rejection of a load of materials, is all part of the educational process being implemented by the county and its municipalities in an effort to get residents to recycle properly.
“Municipalities have been asked to assist in raising the importance of this message through public awareness.”
Angela Andersen, sustainability coordinator for Long Beach Township, said the county advised all the area towns, “They will be cracking down at the tipping floor of the recycling center and turning loads away, starting this month.” In addition, she said residents can expect to see more violation stickers when their recycling container includes items that should not be in there.
Another recycling-related issue homeowners should be aware of, she explained, is that a municipality’s ordinance will specify the size and weight limit for a recyclable bin. In Long Beach Township, she explained, “our ordinance says 32 gallon max, and no more than 50 pounds, so the hauler can safely lift it. Sometimes it is hard to lift over the corral, so a lot of people get the corral that is lower in the front or has a swinging door.”
The large totes with the wheels and attached lids are only for automated truck service, such as used in Stafford Township, she added.
On the often-windy Island, where those attached-lid bins are not acceptable, residents often lose the lids of their trash cans, so Andersen suggests they be connected to the corrals with durable cord.
She also recommends the blue 32-gallon recycling bins – sold locally at stores such as Hands in North Beach Haven – as “a nice way to distinguish your cans in the corrals. Those (recycling) stickers can peel off.”
Lastly, Andersen noted that generic – and, therefore, often incorrect for a certain town – recycling information is constantly shared on social media. “We have to get people to hyper-focus locally on information and what they can actually do to make the economics of it all work again.”
Most local municipalities include recycling guidelines on their websites, as does the county. Some communities, such as Long Beach Township, send out recycling calendars. Various towns as well as the county also promote the Recycle Coach App. Check it out online at co.ocean.nj.us/OC/SolidWaste/frmRecycleCoach.
As Flynn remarked, “Ocean County has taken the initial steps to make a large investment in its materials processing facility at its Northern Regional Recycling Center in Lakewood to improve the quality of recyclables, and meet new and tougher market specifications. Changes to the recycling program are necessary and upgrades to the processing equipment are needed to ensure the operation is financially secure for the future. Equipment upgrades include a new glass removal and cleanup system; optical sorters for the paper line to clean paper to current market specifications; implementing new screening technology; a new paper baler, and associated equipment.”
Now the task is to ensure that only marketable recyclables make their way into the single stream system.
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch