CHATHAM, NJ - It's gotten to the point where recycling is costing Chatham Borough money when in the past it was a source of revenue.

Residents are "contaminating" their recycling bins with items that are costly to sort. The practice also defeats the purpose of the recycling since contaminated loads wind up in a landfill instead of being reused.

Also, residents will be hit with the reality of stricter rules put in place by the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, which collects the recycling. This summer, residents not in compliance will have their recycling container tagged and not picked up.

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The new, more complicated rules on what can be thrown into the single-stream recycling containers were detailed in a "Curbside Recycling Plastics Contamination" report put together by council member Jocelyn Mathiasen and Len Resto, chair of the environmental commission, at Monday's regular meeting of the borough council.

Council member Thad Kobylarz, chair of the budget committee, pointed out that there was a $45,000 swing in the wrong direction for Chatham Borough. Instead of gaining $15,000 in revenue from recycling, the borough was charged $30,000 for contaminated recyclables in 2018. The Morris County MUA recently put out a press release detailing the items that are not acceptable for single-stream recycling.

"They will tag your container and let you know there are items that are unacceptable," Resto said. "You'll have to put your container out again the next Friday. It's not like they'll come back the next day. So, it behooves you to do your part so that you're not paying more in taxes for not cleaning out a peanut butter jar. It's totally in our control. Wet items are not acceptable, so make sure you have a lid."

Plastic bags and other plastic items that are not recyclable are "contaminating" the recycling and costing Chatham Borough money.

"We were expecting revenue of $15,000 in 2018, that's what we budgeted for," Resto said, "Instead we got a bill for $30,000 that we had to borrow from different accounts that had surplus money in it in order to pay them. That was because the shipments went overseas, they get rejected and you end up paying for the shipping costs and for the costs for them to get to a landfill."


  • plastic bags
  • plastic film/plastic packaging
  • foam (Styrofoam)
  • hangers (plastic, metal, wood)
  • food waste
  • wood scraps
  • plastic bottles/containers coded #3, #4, #6 & #7 (only plastic bottles/containerscoded #1, #2 & #5 are acceptable)

Generally, plastics that are not hard are not acceptable. Rigid plastic, such as a yogurt container, must be 8 ounces in size or larger. Glass that is unbroken is acceptable, not broken glass. 

Other issues include containers that still contain residue (peanut butter jars). Rain also contaminates recycling, so residents are required to have bins with tops.

For more help deciding what is recyclable and what is not, there is an APP that can be downloaded: recyclecoach.

The Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions will be holding a plastics pollution presentation, 7 p.m. May 16 in the Madison Common Room on Cook Avenue in Madison.