The Fanwood Council spent several months looking closely at our recycling program, necessitated by the prospect of increasing taxpayer costs of maintaining our 29-year-old recycling center. The center's revenue stream has been greatly diminished in the past two years due to a decline in the market for recyclables. Given that New Jersey municipalities are mandated under law to provide a recycling program for residents, we began to look at all options. Among them were keeping the recycling center as it is, initiating curbside recycling or a combination of the two.

At a public meeting in February, scores of residents expressed their views on recycling. We also issued an open invitation to our community to write letters and emails expressing their views. A number of citizens visited Borough Hall to express opinions in person. The council heard remarks and comments at open meetings from members of the Recycling Association and other citizens. Finally, each of us has been engaged in one-on-one conversations with our constituents. 

At this time, we feel that curbside collection of household recyclables serves the greatest number of people in our town in the most efficient way. Our top priority is following the law. As a town that prides itself on its Sustainable Jersey certification and history of “green” behaviors, it is only logical that curbside recycling be implemented. Every expert we have spoken to on the subject agrees that more material will be collected, and thus the benefit to our environment will be enhanced.

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Pending an ongoing review by our attorneys, we plan to move forward on a shared services agreement with the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) to collect Fanwood’s recyclables, house to house, twice a month, beginning sometime after Labor Day 2016. Here are some of the major points of our plan:

  • The PMUA will supply a 96-gallon bin to hold recyclables to every home in Fanwood at no cost to our citizens.
  • Collections would be done every other Thursday with all collections to be completed in one day by a total of three trucks, each of which is manned by three workers to ensure each bin is properly emptied and returned.
  • Residents may place all household recyclables -- bottles, glass, aluminum, cans, newspaper and small amounts of cardboard -- directly into the bin without pre-sorting. This includes all household plastics, junk mail, mixed paper and different colored glass. The PMUA asks that larger quantities of cardboard and newspapers be bailed and left at the curb next to the bin. 

Councilmen Jack Molenaar and Tom Kranz visited the PMUA facility in Plainfield, where the trucks originate, and the company in New Brunswick that will do the sorting and packing of the recyclables. We were extremely impressed by the professionalism at the PMUA, especially its new executive director, Daniel Mejias, who previously worked in the solid waste industry. The PMUA is committed to the success of the Fanwood program and has already driven through the town twice to get the lay of the land and get the number of homes that will be serviced.

Councilmen Molenaar and Kranz specifically wanted to see where the recyclables go after they are collected and asked questions about the downsides of single-stream recycling. The tour of the recycling facility itself revealed the entire process from the arrival of the trucks carrying the recyclables to the final products in bales ready to be shipped for sale. At each step of the way, there are dozens of people hand-sorting of the materials to remove non-recyclables. Those items are baled separately for transport to incinerators or landfills.

We were convinced that every effort is made to separate as many of these non-recyclables as possible so that the final recyclables are as clean as possible. Bales of plastics, metal and paper are stacked and prepared for shipment, mostly to China and India. Glass is ground into two sizes and also sold. Larger plastics are also separated, some for sale, the rest for incineration.

Because it is a shared services agreement, under the law competitive bids are not required. The cost to the Borough is still being finalized but will be around $118,000 per year over three years. The first year has already been figured into our municipal budget as we anticipated this was a possibility, so it will not negatively impact the budget, which this year reflects a small tax decrease in the municipal portion. The Borough will continue to fund the Fanwood Recycling Center to the extent necessary until the curbside program begins, at which time the Borough's lease with the non-profit, independent Recycling Association will be terminated.

Pending a final review of the proposed contract, the Council is prepared to vote on implementation at our regular June meeting. Following that will be a public education program over the summer. The Fanwood Recycling Center will remain open for business until the curbside program is ready to go, which we estimate will be sometime in the fall.

The Mayor and Council will maintain a dialogue with the Recycling Association about its possible role in the future and are extremely grateful to the Association's employees and volunteers for their patience as we have deliberated this issue.

Mayor Colleen Mahr
Councilman Kevin Boris
Councilman Russ Hegel
Councilman Tom Kranz
Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell
Councilwoman Erin McElroy-Barker
Councilman Jack Molenaar