NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Borough Council members were shocked to discover the financial implications of recent changes what is accepted by recyclers in Union County, New Jersey and the nation. As the market for recyclables collapses here and abroad, the cost of recycling pick-up is quickly rising, and the number of items that will be accepted are dropping.

Earlier this year, when the borough went out to bid for recycling services, it only received one bid from Giordano Company Inc., which it rejected at the June 25 meeting, because it was triple last year’s cost.

The bid for this year’s contract was $130,000; for 2019, the bid was $390,000. That cost covers recycling pick up every other week. Councilman Gary Kapner said, “Historically we have only gotten one bid, which forces us to negotiate directly with the provider.”  

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After checking with other municipalities in the area, Borough Administrator Doug Marvin said he learned Giordano services many local towns, most of which had only one bidder and a similar increase in the cost. A check on the company’s website lists: Berkeley Heights; Clark; Cranford; Kennilworth; Livingston; Millburn/Short Hills; New Providence; Scotch Plains; South Orange; Springfield and Westfield, as the towns the firm serves in this area.  

While the details in the recycling contract are being changed before it goes out for bid next time, borough officials are grappling with whether it makes sense to recycle, since it actually costs less to put the recyclables in the garbage, rather than in recycling. Still, it is a state law, and failure to recycle could result in penalties.

Councilman Mike Gennaro said, “If this price were to hold, it will cost us more to recycle per ton than to actually dispose of garbage.”  He conceded this is “not a good development for the environment,” but said the truth is no one knows if the materials are actually recycled or “burned in a resource recovery facility or filled in a landfill.” 

Marvin said he is also looking at Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), as a possible recycler. “It seems disposal is driving this number, so even if the Plainfield MUA can pick it up for us, it will dispose of it at the same rates,” he said. 

Mayor Al Morgan brought up recycling early in the council meeting. There have been “some problems getting rid of recycling,” he said, then noted there are “new regulations” in place and a lot of miscommunication about those. He urged residents to go to the Union County website,  where they will find the new regulations.

As he said that, Kapner held up an image from the page which people can access when they click on “What Goes in my Curbside Bin?" Under the “Curbside Recycling” category on the left of the page.  There are two images – Acceptable and Unacceptable – which can be printed and posted wherever appropriate.

Thanks to a firm that uses thin film plastics to manufacture park benches and the like, Berkeley Heights, has added another recyclable to its Acceptable list – thin film plastics, such as plastic bags, cereal box bags, bread bags, Ziploc and other such items. The town is  participating in the Trex Challenge and neighbors are welcome to help the town collect 500 pounds of these plastic bags. To see more about that program, and where to drop off those types of plastics, visit TAPinto Berkeley Heights

JoAnn Gemenden, the coordinator of the Union County recycling program, will attend the August meeting of the council to explain what is happening and what residents and the town can do to improve their recycling.

The mayor said, “We will have to do something, it’s become a nightmare.”

Marvin said he is “hoping the legislature will look at this. We can’t have wet cardboard or paper… maybe there needs to be changes to the legislation.”  As for other recyclables, “Maybe we should be getting back to glass,” he said.