FAIR LAWN, NJ - Are you confused on what you can and cannot recycle? If so, you're not alone.
In January, a member of the public asked the Borough Council how they were educating the public on recycling. It seems, she said, many people do not know what they're supposed to be doing. She cited her neighbor's habits which included recycling cheesy crusted pizza boxes and plastic food clam shells as examples of how people are not aware of the rules.
Few know as much about recycling as Fair Lawn's Recycling Department employees and even fewer know as much as Ron Lottermann, the borough's Recycling and Clean Communities Coordinator. As a matter of fact, when other municipalities need recycling advice, they often call Lottermann.
But that doesn't mean Fair Lawn is perfect, although borough residents are on the right track, Lottermann said.
Department employees say it's not that people resist recycling, it's more that the rules, especially in the last two years, have been changing.
Lottermann sent out a lengthy Facebook message last summer explaining what happened with China's new regulations.
His explanation in August 2019: "1. This is a national issue due to the Pacific Rim countries rejecting ship loads of recycling due to contamination. China started this about 5 years ago and the regulations get tighter every year. Right now the regulations prohibit more than 0.5% of contamination in a load.
2. The change in recycling regulations happened in May 2018. There was an update to the regulations in October 2018, which ADDED the wax coated cartons into the bottles/cans mix."
When the town left behind barrels filled with recycling last summer, and left tags explaining why with pictures, residents were unhappy. But, Lottermann said, it helped change peoples' habits.
"I had heard a rumor that the State was looking into establishing a committee to help with the future of recycling," Lottermann said. "I think it’s a good idea...we need markets for recycling to thrive once again."
New Jersey state Senator Kip Bateman’s legislation to establish a council to make recommendations for the future of recycling in the state has been recently signed into law.
“There have been significant changes in the global recycling market, and the impact is being felt throughout our counties and towns,” Bateman (R-16) said in January after the legislation passed. “Local governments are struggling to maintain recycling without the outside revenue. The public has embraced recycling so effectively that supply now exceeds demand. The imbalance results in warehouses overflowing with paper, cans, bottles and plastic, and the excess ends up going to the landfill.”
The new law, S-3939/S-3944, establishes a Recycling Market Development Council to analyze the market for recycling and consider strategies to increase the use of collected recyclables in the manufacture of new products.
“Recycling can only be sustainable when there is a market for material and it can generate enough money to cover the costs of collection and processing,” Bateman said. “We need to take a close look at recycling streams and consider options to resuscitate this crucial environmental program. This council may be our best chance to find a solution.”
For years, China was the world’s largest market for recycling and the recipient of much of the salvaged material from New Jersey, according to Bateman. However, as the demand has waned, "the Chinese have dramatically limited the amount of foreign recyclables they will accept."
The Recycling Market Development Council established by Bateman’s law will operate within the State Department of Environmental Protection.
As for Fair Lawn, Lottermann continues to remind residents of the rules in his emails and Facebook posts.
"Residents are reminded that contamination in the recycling costs taxpayers in the form of penalties at the market," he said in a recent email. "Please review the guidelines and do not place anything not listed in the recycling. Items must also be rinsed of food waste."
Bottles & Cans acceptable materials flyer:
Paper & Cardboard acceptable materials flyer:
Most Commonly Ask Items List:
2020 Recycling Handbook:
Questions regarding the recycling program can be directed to 201-794-5341 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.