NJDEP’s New Social Media Campaign Emphasizes Keeping Contaminants Out of Recycling Stream

Jun 26, 2019

The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection is encouraging local governments and organizations to use social media to remind the public of the importance of keeping the recycling stream free of nonrecyclable items. Through “Recycle Right NJ,” the DEP provides state entities with 20 social media posts – for use on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – that emphasize putting only acceptable materials in curbside recycling bins.

“This social media campaign is another valuable tool that county and municipal recycling programs can use to eliminate confusion about what can and cannot be recycled in curbside programs,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “Properly recycling materials is critical to keeping our environment clean, protecting public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.”

As the DEP noted, “Recycling contamination is anything that finds its way into a recycling bin or cart that does not belong there,” including, but certainly not limited to, plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, auto parts, garden hoses and bowling balls.

“Contaminants in recycling have several adverse effects on the recycling stream,” the department explained. “They jam up processing equipment at recycling centers, which in turn increases costs associated with recycling, and can pose health and safety threats to recycling center workers.

“Further, recycling contamination creates serious quality control issues at local recycling centers. The co-mingling of recyclables with contaminants has led to major recycling market disruptions that have negatively affected the economics of recycling and has created one of the biggest challenges facing recycling today.”

Since the start of the year, Ocean County has instructed haulers to be stricter when collecting recyclables – passing over bins contaminated with trash, and leaving violation notice stickers, if necessary, to help avoid rejection of loads trucked in to the local recycling facility.

Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to Ocean County’s recycling program, remarked, “We are asking everyone to be more mindful of the materials they recycle and to especially not use plastic bags, which have created extensive problems at our processing facility. Recyclables should not be placed in plastic bags, nor should the plastic bags be tossed into recycling bins. In terms of contamination, plastic bags getting into the recycling stream is certainly the biggest problem area where help from our residents can make an immediate difference.”

Visit co.ocean.nj.us/recycle, call 1-800-55-RECYCLE or download the Recycle Coach app – information for which is also on the county website – to learn more about what items are acceptable and unacceptable to recycle, and where to take certain items such as rigid plastics, such as lawn furniture and coolers; brush; textiles; and shrink wrap.

The county website also offers dates and locations for upcoming Residential Document Shredding Program days, Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Program days and more.

“For recycling to work, we need to keep our recycling mix clean and free of non-acceptable and problematic items,” McCabe stated. “It is important to remember that recyclable materials are not trash, but rather valuable raw materials used to make new products.”

Recycling also helps conserve resources, reduces waste sent to disposal facilities, helps curb emissions of greenhouse gases and creates jobs.

For details about the Recycle Right NJ campaign and to learn more about recycling in the state, visit nj.gov/dep/dshw/recycling/promotools.html and recycle.nj.gov/dep. —J.K.-H.

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