SAYREVILLE, NJWith China no longer accepting certain recycling materials, and requiring others to be much cleaner, New Jersey municipalities are continually challenged to comply with ever-changing recycling requirements.

Education of residents is vital, which is why the Borough of Sayreville is asking the Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) on Main Street for assistance. 

PAL, which works to ensure a transition to independent living for students ages 18-21 with disabilities, such as autism, is tasked with walking through neighborhoods and assessing the items that residents leave in recycling containers.

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Eight students are paid $9 an hour to walk through neighborhoods in Sayreville with PAL’s state-certified supervisors. They wear yellow vests, indicating their participation in this program, which began in early June.

Residents who follow the latest recycling guidelines will see a tag on their bins that read “Good Job! Thank you for recycling correctly.”  For those residents who mistakenly attempt to recycle plastic bags, used pizza boxes, shredded paper or lightbulbs, for example, they will be alerted that such items are no longer permitted in the containers.

The pilot program has already garnered statewide recognition, with the New Jersey Clean Communities Council awarding the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) in Piscataway, which runs PAL, with its annual “Barbara McConnell Business Partnership Award” for 2019. With growing recognition of the program, there are already discussions about expanding into neighboring communities, underscoring a far-reaching need for recycling education within New Jersey communities.

Elyse Barone, Sayreville’s recycling and clean communities coordinator, said the PAL students will spend eight days a month, at about 2-3 hours a shift, to undertake this assessment. 

The objective is for the PAL participants to return to the same residences after a few months to note if recycling behavior had changed. The program, funded with a county grant, is to continue until the end of the year and could be extended if additional funding is provided.

Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien, who has been involved with this program since its inception, said the borough’s “doors and hearts are always open to help everyone.

“This program is not a hand-out by any means,” the mayor said. “There is a distinct need in Sayreville to ensure our residents are aware of the latest recycling laws. Two great programs are coming together – Sayreville’s clean communities program and PAL – to help serve our residents and serve as an educational resource.”

PAL is open to individuals who have completed their high school academic requirements. Vocational training opportunities, as a result of the ESCNJ’s relationships with established businesses and community agencies, and accessing public transportation options, are significant parts of the PAL program. PAL students meet daily in office space in Sayreville.

“This program is all about learning job skills, work skills and the behaviors that are required to succeed in a job,” explained Raissa Prus, who supervises PAL. “The students are tremendously excited to do this work; it is a great self-confidence boost for these young individuals preparing for adult life.”

Prus said PAL participants are also involved in a number of other paid jobs, such as providing janitorial services for travel plazas on the Garden State Parkway that are located close to Sayreville.

“Our students are eager for opportunities and to learn as much as they can,” Prus said. “I am grateful to Elyse Barone and the many others in Sayreville and Middlesex County who have made this recycling program a reality. I know our students are poised for success!”