On Friday, September 10th, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that a new public-private partnership will enable the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs to increase its recycling efforts, reduce its operating costs and create a new recurring source of revenue, and provide the Essex County Parks System with a compost facility that meets all current environmental regulations. DiVincenzo noted that the two-year agreement with S. Rotondi & Sons, Inc. of Summit will create approximately $450,000 in savings and new revenue for the County.

"It has been a priority of my administration to promote the protection of our environment by preserving open space and enhancing our recycling initiatives. The privatization of our compost facility opens a new opportunity for the County to dramatically increase our recycling of vegetative materials and produce new revenue and savings for our budget," DiVincenzo said. "This agreement is very beneficial for Essex County and is a good example of how government and the private sector can work together to enhance operations and create new revenue," he added.

"We want to thank the County Executive, Freeholders and Parks Department for giving us this opportunity. This is an excellent site and we are prepared to provide the highest level of service for the County as well as all the municipalities located within Essex County," Michael Rotondi of S. Rotondi and Sons, Inc. said.

"Most people don't think of leaves and branches as recyclable materials, but they have very useful second lives to beautify our public spaces and homes," Essex County Utilities Authority Administrator Nicholas Maddaloni said. "This partnership is an example of the County thinking outside of the box to identify new areas to expand recycling and promote recycling in the community," he added.

S. Rotondi & Sons will operate the three-acre compost and transfer station for two years. They took over operation of the facility in July and removed debris and organized the site for their own operational efficiencies. The Essex County Parks Department will deliver the leaves it collects from the County's 20 parks to the site free of charge. Last year, there were about 3,500 yards of leaves removed from the County's parks. In addition to rental payments from the contractor, the Parks Department will receive free mulch, wood chips and topsoil to be used throughout the Park System. S. Rotondi & Sons received exemptions from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to transfer leaves, compost yard trimmings and to recycle tree parts at the South Mountain Compost Site. The contractor will then sell recycled material from the site. The site will be open to the public from Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Essex County Parks Department has used the site to store leaves that were collected from its parks and then contracted with a vendor to remove and dispose of the vegetative waste. When topsoil, mulch or wood chips were needed in the Parks System, the Department would issue a public bid to purchase the material. This would cost the County about $16,000 a year. Hiring a private contractor to operate the site now saves disposal and transportation costs to remove the material and costs to purchase products. The Essex County Parks Department worked with the Essex County Utilities Authority to develop the specifications for the publicly-bid contract and to increase the recycling of its vegetative waste.

Turning over the management of the compost and transfer site to a private contractor is part of Essex County's ongoing initiative to increase recycling efforts. In recent years, the Parks Department has stepped up its efforts by introducing recycling bins at park events, such as the Free SummerMusic Concert Series. The Essex County Environmental Center has an extensive recycling education program that is offered to schools, scout organizations, public libraries and other groups when they visit the Center in Roseland or as an outreach program to their site. In addition, the Essex County Utilities Authority has increased its outreach programs to educate and promote recycling in municipalities, school districts and the business community. The ECUA continues to offer its popular Essex County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day and Essex County Computer and Electronics Recycling Day, which are held twice a year in the fall and spring.

The ECUA has reported positive results. The Essex County Municipal Solid Waste recycling rate increased to 39.8 percent in 2008 from 31.1 percent in 2005. This raised Essex County's ranking to having the fifth highest recycling rate in New Jersey in 2008 from having the 13 highest recycling rate in 2005. Over that same time period, the amount of reported recycled material increased over 100,000 tons while trash disposal decreased by 36,000 tons.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.