The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders would like to remind residents that plastic bags and other unacceptable items should not be placed in curbside recycling bins.

“Union County residents have a good recycling rate, but we want to improve on this record and set a high bar,” said Freeholder Chairman Al Mirabella. “Every household can pitch in by following some simple guidelines that help our local recyclers operate more efficiently, especially when it comes to keeping contaminants out of the recycling stream.”

In particular, Chairman Mirabella noted that plastic bags are prohibited in all curbside collection programs.  “As a matter of convenience some residents use plastic bags to carry cans, bottles and other items to their curbside bin, but because all recyclables have to be sorted, bagging interferes with the recycling process” said Mirabella.  “Items should always be put directly into bins, without the bag.” 

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Plastic bags can be recycled separately through a designated retailer, such as a local supermarket or department store. To search for a convenient drop-off site, use the free location finder at plasticfilmrecycling.org (due to Covid-19 concerns, many sites are currently closed).

Curbside recycling fees have increased significantly in the past few years, not only because end markets have gone away, but because of contamination. Items that cannot be recycled should be disposed of in the regular garbage.

Acceptable items in your local recycling program include:

  • Plastic bottles and containers with #1 or #2 on the bottom
  • Aluminum and steel (tin) cans and lids
  • Glass bottles and jars (all sizes, shapes and colors)
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes (only clean pizza boxes, please)
  • All mixed paper, including newspapers, magazines, junk mail & catalogs

The following items CANNOT be recycled curbside and should be thrown in regular garbage (or recycled through separate collection programs)

  • Plastic bags or other plastic film*
  • Styrofoam*
  • Dishware, glass and mirrors
  • Dirty pizza boxes
  • Shredded paper* (confidential documents can be shredded for free ucnj.org/recycling) 
  • Pots, pans and small appliances*
  • Plastic containers and plastic ware

*Separate recycling collection programs available visit www.ucnj.org/recycling

Chairman Mirabella also reminds residents to be alert for changes in recycling guidelines. “Efficient recycling programs must follow market trends for raw materials, so it is not unusual for the guidelines to change occasionally,” he said. “It’s always a good idea to check with your local program to make sure you’re up to date.” 

The Freeholder Board also encourages residents to sign up for Recycle Coach, a free app that makes it easier to stay up to date about countywide recycling information and municipal recycling schedules.

For more information on local and countywide recycling programs, and a list of municipal recycling coordinators, visit the Union County Bureau of Recycling & Planning at 908-654-9890 or online at ucnj.org/recycling.

More information on the Recycle Coach app can be found at ucnj.org/recycling/recycle-coach-app.