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Union County Residents Can 'Recycle Right' Without Plastic Bags

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders reminds residents that plastic bags and other excluded items cannot be recycled through their local curbside pick-up programs.

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

In particular, Chairman Granados noted that plastic bags are prohibited in all curbside pickup programs.

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“As a matter of convenience some residents use plastic bags to carry cans, bottles and other items to the curbside, but that interferes with the recycling process and contaminates the recycling stream,” said Granados.  “Items should always be put directly into bins, without the bag.”

Plastic bags can be recycled 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.

Chairman Granados also reminded 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.”

Common items that are currently accepted by local recycling programs include:

  • Plastic bottles and containers that are coded with #1 or #2 on the bottom.
  • Aluminum and steel (tin) cans and lids.
  • All sizes, shapes and colors of glass bottles and jars.
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes such as cereal and clean pizza boxes; and milk, juice and fruit cartons.
  • All mixed paper, including newspapers, magazines, junk mail, catalogs and phone books may be recycled. The exception is pre-shredded paper. Residents who need secure shredding for personal documents can use Union County’s free mobile shredding events.

The following items CANNOT be recycled at curbside:

  • Plastic bags or other plastic film.
  • Styrofoam -- check your municipality for drop-off location, if any.
  • Dishware, glass and mirrors -- can be thrown in regular garbage.
  • Dirty pizza boxes -- no leftover food or grease can be included.
  • Shredded paper – bring personal documents to a free mobile shredding event.
  • Pots, pans and small appliances – check with your municipality for scrap metal drop-off location, if any.
  • Plastic containers and plastic ware.

For more information on local and countywide recycling programs, FAQs about curbside recycling 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.

Recycling supports the goals of Chairman Granados’s Moving Union County Forward “Plant a Seed” initiative for building participation in recycling countywide and engaging the public in conservation and environmental education.

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.

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

Quick links to all Union County environmental programs can be found at ucnj.org/green-connection.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

Connect with Union County on social media.

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