Decline in Recycling Hurts New Jersey's Environment and Budgets

Once at the cutting edge of the recycling revolution, the last decade has seen a precipitous drop-off in recycling in New Jersey. James M. O’Neill reports on the reasons for the decline and its effect on municipal finances.
May 11, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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As the first state in the nation to mandate domestic recycling twenty-five years ago, New Jersey was once at the forefront of the recycling revolution. However, while recycling efforts in other parts of the country remain strong, helped by the "robust" market for recycled products, the share of recycled waste collected in the state has dropped from 59% of all waste in 1995 to 41% of all waste in 2009.

O'Neill attributes part of the decline to the economy, "Recycling has declined locally in part because of the recent recession. Consumers with less money translated into fewer products purchased - and less need for containers or packing boxes. In addition, declines in advertising meant fewer newspapers, inserts and circulars to be recycled. Still, many items that can be recycled aren't making it into the bins."

"There's a recycling malaise. Recycling seems to have leveled off at a time when there should be a renewed commitment," said Judith Enck, the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator for New York and New Jersey. "It's crazy to be burying and burning these resources."   

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Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 in The Record
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