In February 2019, the Mayor created a Special Task Force focused on Recycling. The aim of this task force is to research the current recycling practices in Berkeley Heights in order to propose ways to control the increased recycling cost the Township is facing.  Now five months along, the Task Force has a plan that will educate residents about recycling best practices as well as will propose new recycling options which will help control costs.

The Task Force is kicking off a campaign to raise the overall level of understanding about, engagement in, and improved practices of recycling in Berkeley Heights.  They will start with series of multi-media campaigns, event demonstrations and township sponsored meetings aimed at sharing the information and best practices that will ultimately and ideally help move Berkeley Heights into a leading role in containing costs while improving our overall environment.

Watch for the team at the Vegan Festival Events on Saturday, September 21 at 10AM and on Sunday, September 22 at 1PM both at Columbia Park where they will have information about recycling and a sample-recycling bin that the Township is considering adopting to streamline our collection process.  They are planning more updates so be on the lookout for upcoming information and events..

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Background

2018 saw many changes to recycling locally, nationwide and worldwide:

  1. The Township received only one bid for it’s annual recycling contract.  That one bid was at a 42% cost increase.  Other local towns received the same bad news.
  2. Thin film plastic bags were no longer accepted in recycling.  This required residents to adopt a major habit change as many residents were accustomed to collecting their recycling in plastic bags.
  3. China imposed a limit of 2% contamination on imported scrap and recycling materials.  

Until 2018, China had accepted virtually anything shipped as recycling material as it strove to fill a demand for recycled waste.  As a result, recyclers across the United States had abandoned the practice of separating paper and cardboard from plastic and metal, adopting what is known as single stream recycling. Thanks to the inexpensive alternative of shipping our recycling waste overseas, American recycling capacity declined and was caught off guard when China shut down that alternative.

Recycling facilities were previously able to sell recycled materials to manufacturers, which offset some of the costs of recycling.  With the loss of willing buyers, this income stream ended and the facilities charged more to cover their costs.

Task Force Progress

In early 2019, the Township established a Task Force focused on finding solutions to these challenges. In an effort to learn more about the problem and develop cost effective solutions, the taskforce:

  1. Met with recyclers,
  2. Toured recycling facilities,
  3. Talked to other townships and other governing bodies, and  
  4. Conducted a survey to gain a baseline understanding of how much is known in town about recycling and how residents in Berkeley Heights recycle.

As a result of these discussions, visits and gathered information, the Task Force concluded that in order to control costs, the residents need additional education to improve their overall understanding about best practices in recycling habits.

Next steps will include a campaign to continue to educate residents about recycling best practices.  Residents will save tax dollars if the township can decrease its recycling costs.  That can only happen when residents refine their recycling habits by learning:

  1. What specific items are acceptable to recycle?
  2. What kinds of items are not acceptable?  For example, thin film plastic of any kind  
  3. What condition must recycling be in to be acceptable?  Items must be dry and clean. For example, wet and dirty or greasy items are not accepted and increase costs when included with other items.

Finally, the best habits are those that reduce our dependence on disposables. Often referred to as the three R’s - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – these habits will not only lower the cost of recycling, but, much more importantly, minimize the damage we all inflict on our environment.