EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - New enforcement of local recycling policies could be the beginning of big changes for East Brunswick in an effort to go green. As of December 2, the township announced that recycling materials must be clean, empty, and loose in cans and dumpsters. In order to recycle more effectively, the town will no longer collect recycling that does not follow the guidelines. According to Mayor Cohen, the initiative is part of a larger plan to make East Brunswick a more sustainable community.
“We’re not looking to punish people, there are no fines associated with it,” Cohen said. “What’s happening right now is we don’t get money for our recycling…. haulers right now, if they see that you’ve got a plastic bag for instance in your can, they won’t take the whole thing and that whole thing now goes to the dump.”
If residents are recycling the right products, they’ll receive a green card. If not, they’ll receive a checkbox of what they are putting in their cans that shouldn’t be in there.
“Our own department’s going around, and we’re going to stop as people have their yellow cans out and look in every one of those bags and see: Are you doing it right or are you doing it wrong?” Cohen noted.
As soon as 2020, East Brunswick could be going single-use plastic free in favor of reusables. According to Cohen, this will be the first big step in making sustainable choices.
“I think a lot of people are already aware of the pitfalls and the problems that have occurred to the environment as a result of this massive use of single use plastic bags getting into the water supply, getting into our food supply, getting into landfills, and so I think that people recognize that that has to change,” Cohen said.
Without a market for recycling, towns no longer get money back from garbage haulers for the amount of recycling they put out. As of right now, the town pays as much to recycle as they do for regular garbage disposable. To Mayor Cohen, creating a green economy is, most importantly, is about caring for the planet.
“We have to pay as much to be disposed of as we do for our regular garbage. So we need to be very conscious that if we’re recycling we’re recycling because we’re trying to be good stewards of the earth and do the right thing,” he said.
The policy, however, could mean big changes for small businesses. Large chains and international companies currently operate in multiple markets, some of which have already gone plastic-free.
“Most people don’t think of going in for their Chinese food dinner and bringing reusable bags, or bringing in Tupperware for leftovers,” Cohen said. “That’s going to be a harder behavior to change than remembering to take out the (reusable shopping) bags that are already sitting in your trunk.”
In an effort to encourage supermarket shoppers, Cohen mentioned either a discount for people with reusable bags, or a charge for people who opt for plastic. However, it will ultimately be dependent on the store.
“I think that we’re ready, and if something pushes us to do it that’s an easy way of changing behavior,” Cohen said. “There are other things that are harder to change. Styrofoam, straws, and there’s probably a host of other things that we could do. So we have to do it a little at a time. And I think that’s how you achieve more long-lasting change.”