Sustainable Camden County speaking to residents

The first of its kind in the state, Sustainable Camden County promotes sustainability practices to residents

The Camden County Office of Sustainability kicked off the first of its three-part series at Vogelson Regional Branch Library Wednesday to discuss its efforts to increase sustainability within the region.

Sustainability has numerous benefits for not only the environment, but also residents, such as increased property value, better air quality, reduced waste and more.

The presentation was led by three members helping to promote sustainability in various ways. Environmental educator Marissa Wolfe from the Camden County Department of Parks, one of the presenters, will be visiting Camden County libraries over the next several months to promote sustainability across all municipalities and age groups.

Much discussion on the work of the Office of Sustainability was centered around its duties at its Gloucester Township offices.

Camden County, with its more than half a million residents, is the only county in the state to have an Office of Sustainability.

“That’s 500,000 residents doing the same thing as everyone else every day — using the same single-use plastic items, driving similar miles,” Wolfe said during the presentation. “And it really adds up within our small county.”

Wolfe wanted to make sure residents are mindful of new recycling guidelines within Camden County; the county currently only recycles №1 and №2 plastic items. While some may think to just recycle any plastic item, only the accepted items can be recycled, otherwise it ruins the whole batch.

For example, plastic bags cannot be accepted into recycling bins, and instead should be taken to supermarkets, which typically have collections. Best for the environment, the group recommended residents use reusable bags.

“If you’re putting plastic bags into the recycling bin, I ask you to stop,” Wolfe said. “They mess up the machines and shut down the entire production.”

Accepted recycling items include cartons, corrugated cardboard and paper bags, aluminum and metal cans, junk mail, phone books, newspapers, glass bottles, paper towel rolls and the accepted plastic numbers.

Trash collected in Camden County does not go to a landfill, but is instead sent to an incinerator and burned to generate steam energy.

Valerie Brown, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, promoted several programs ongoing in the county. The Tool Library at its Lakeland Ecocomplex allows residents to rent tools for projects around the house, rather than having residents buy individual sets of tools.

Additionally, its Lakeland Campus also runs a bike share program, having partnered with the Gloucester Township Police Department to receive unclaimed bikes. Both programs are completely free, and only require identification to ensure users are residents of Camden County.

Within the county, all municipalities are registered to be a part of Sustainable Jersey, a program that promotes sustainable initiatives and, when registered, enables local governments and schools to apply for grants, according to Brown.

Gloucester Township holds a silver certification, the highest available, while Voorhees Township is at bronze. In total, 13 municipalities are certified in Camden County.

Camden County Freeholder Jonathan Young said in a statement the efforts of Sustainable Camden County are becoming increasingly successful since its inception.

“Any goal we set that’s intended to preserve and better the environment really starts and ends with our residents,” Young said. “The Camden County Office of Sustainability, the only county-operated office like it in the state, hosts community cleanups and other programs year-round, and we’ve seen the participation of this community really make that office the success that it’s been. Tonight’s presentation is another opportunity to show the public how they can help us and get involved.”

The Camden County Office of Sustainability has several upcoming future programs it’s looking to announce and open across the county. For more information or details about programs with the office, visit sustainable.camdencounty.com.