VERONA, NJ - As the holidays approach, you may find yourself with an abundance of bottles, cans and catalogs to recycle. But before you toss them into your big blue bin, make sure you are following basic recycling rules.

“China, which takes most of our recycling, has changed the amount of contamination they will accept. The rest of the world is stuck with a huge problem and tons of recyclables, mostly plastics,” said Steven Neale, Director of Administration and Economic Development and the chair of Sustainable Verona. “We do still encourage residents to recycle, but we must stress how important it is to do it correctly.”

One thing residents can do is make sure the stream is as clean as possible so all materials get collected. If you are unsure if something is recyclable, it is best to throw it out instead of throwing it in with all the other recycling.

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“A big issue we find is that people are trying to do good and recycle as much as possible, but they are actually putting materials in the stream that are essentially contaminating it and making things worse. It's called aspirational recycling and it's a huge issue,” said Neale. “When in doubt, throw it out. That may seem counterintuitive to some people but that's the way it has to be now or it will become garbage anyway. Plastics are the biggest offenders. We accept numbers 1, 2 and 5 plastics, nothing else.”

It’s also important for residents to make sure what they do recycle is completely clean: Wash out peanut butter jars, cans and bottles. Remove labels as best you can. Greasy pizza boxes should not be placed with other cardboard. Most importantly, do not place recyclables in plastic bags.

Lastly, please note that leaf bags must only contain leaves and vegetative waste. When regular garbage makes its way into leaf bags, the township of Verona is fined.

“Recycling is not dead, but we must be more vigilant about it and do it properly,” said Neale. But he also urges residents not to create as much garbage or recycling in the first place.

“One of the most impactful things people can do is to refuse single use plastics whenever possible,” he said. “That means refusing straws when you go out to eat and refusing a plastic bag when you are only buying one item at a store. Bring your own reusable bags. These are small ways to start cutting back on these single use plastics that find their way into our waterways, which contributes to a much bigger mess.”

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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