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Berkeley Heights Residents and Council Learn What Can Be Recycled and Where

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JoAnn Gemenden, bureau chief of the Union County Recycling and Planning Bureau at the Berkeley Heights Township Council meeting, on March 20, as seen on livestream. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Township residents found a new use for Facebook – they tracked the Giordano recycling truck as it made its rounds in the township on Wednesday -- after three major Nor'easters in March, they had a lot of un-picked up recycling they wanted to see disappear.

Recycling was also on the minds of township officials last night, when Joseph A. Graziano, Sr., the director of the County Public Works Department, and JoAnn Gemenden, bureau chief of the Union County Recycling and Planning Bureau dropped by the council meeting. Gemenden said this was a routine visit to remind residents and officials of the need to comply with regulations. 

Recycling has been “mandatory for everyone” in New Jersey since 1987, she said. All businesses, restaurants, schools, commercial enterprises, governments, and residents are required to recycle.  Every outdoor event, from a street fair to a block party, must have recycling containers and they can be loaned out by the county or local recycling coordinator, she said.  

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The haulers who pick up recycling, whether at a business, park, street fair or curbside must send tonnage reports to the town by March 1 to have their recycling information included in the town’s report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). After all the reports are in, the DEP sends a check to each town. “The money you get back from the DEP depends on how much you recycle,” she said.

While everyone thinks they know what is and isn’t recyclable, there have been some recent changes. The markets for recycled materials have changed and, in the case of China, essentially closed. China used to import a large percentage of our recyclable materials, the type put out on the curb for pick up -- in particular plastic and mixed paper.  On Jan. 1, 2018, China instituted its ban, in part because the items we sent to their country “are too contaminated.”

Gemenden said the Union County Recycling page on the website  will be revised later this month with precise information on what can and cannot be recycled at curbside and which items need to be taken to other recycling locations or special events.  For instance, electronics are not recycled curbside, nor are scrap metals, hazardous waste, medicines, helium tanks and paints. There are either special days or special locations or a combination of both for that.

Other items that are not to be included in curbside pickup include Styrofoam, dirty pizza boxes, dishware, glass, mirrors, paper towels, cups and plates, shredded paper or plastic caps or dairy cups or tubs. Girodano does pick up shredded paper, residents said.

Gemenden had handouts for residents who attended the meeting on what should and should not be recycled. The information on them will be placed on the updated Union County Recycling Page on the Website. 

There are some new initiatives planned to help Union County residents become more aware of what recycling options are open to them. There will be a compost bin and rain barrel sale and a school recycling bin program, she said.

The township can also apply for a Recycling Enhancement Grant worth up to $10,000 to be used for recycling containers to be placed on the sidewalks or in outdoor spaces, where recreation activities take place, and similar locations.

Too see more of her presentation, visit livestream. 

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