Monroe Township is taking steps in the right ecological direction in the form of answering the hot-button questions like “What is and isn’t recyclable?” and “How can I recycle properly?”
To answer these questions, and anything else recycling related, every municipality in the state is required to have a certified recycling professional. Enter Deb Bender, Williamstown’s CRP.
“When I got hired here as part-time, I was here to help [administrative assistant] Candy [Gooden] out,” she described. “When they approached me about it [the position] I said ‘Sure, I’ll do it. I’d love to do it.’ Once I started going to class, I realized how much I was doing wrong, we’re all doing it wrong.”
The class she’s referring to is the seven-month certification class where attendees go to class once a week to learn the ins and outs of recycling and proper waste management.
“We all don’t know because we’re not educated,” she described. “I didn’t know, no one ever said to me ‘That’s not recyclable,’ I thought everything that’s glass, everything that’s plastic is recyclable.”
As she came to learn, essentially the only recyclable objects are plastic bottles that are made with #1 or #2 plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum or steel food cans and glass bottles or jars. Each recycled item needs to be rinsed and dried, clean of any food debris.
One of the biggest issues with recycling is plastic bags, these are not recyclable and can prove problematic for the recycling process.
“Plastic bags are really bad,” Bender said bluntly. “You want to think of it as if you put a plastic bag through a vacuum cleaner, with the turbines turning it will get sucked up and stuck – that’s kind of what happens at the recycling facility.”
She added if the plastic bags are full of other recyclables, the people in the facility will have to tear it open and remove the bag. If the bag is loose, it could get stuck in the turbine, which would then require the facility to be shut down to rip out the bags. For those looking to recycle plastic bags, it can be done at businesses like ShopRite or Walmart. According to Bender, there are containers at these locations where folks can drop off plastic bags to have them properly disposed of. If a resident is unsure of what is or is not recyclable, throw it in the trash.
“One of the things we say is, ‘When in doubt, throw it out,’ that’s coming from the DEP itself,” Bender said.
Going hand-in-hand with making sure only accepted items are recycled is keeping the weight down. For example, placing a pickle jar filled with brine into the bin will not only be considered a contaminated item, it will drive the weight up. The township is charged by Omni Recycling LLC by weight of recycled items, the higher the weight the more it costs the township. For more information on how to keep weight down, please contact the department of public works at (856) 629-4444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2018, Monroe Township recycled 4,108 tons of items, an average of more than 300 tons per month. According to Bender, this included single-stream items that are everyday recyclable items not including e-waste or white goods such as refrigerators. The goal for next year is to continue to recycle properly, whether that means the weight fluctuates up or down is a different story.
Bender believes sustainability plays a part in recycling as well – something as simple as using a reusable water bottle in lieu of a regular bottle of water can make a difference in the long run.
“The fact that it’s costing the township money to recycle now is a huge burden on everybody,” she said. “More importantly, it’s probably better to be more conscious of what we’re using. Is it really important to go through two cases of water every week? Find other ways to drink water instead of using a water bottle every time.”
- The department of public works is open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Residents are permitted to drop off approved recyclable items, electronics, brush and yard debris, household trash and motor oil. Unaccepted items are concrete bricks or blocks, paint and chemicals, propane, oil or helium tanks, solvents or pesticides, construction or contractor debris, tires or commercial debris. This is for Monroe Township residents only, photo identification is required to use this service.
- In an effort to keep tonnage down, the department of public works recommends residents don’t bag their grass – they should cut it and leave it. Bender said it’s best for the grass to do it that way. If a resident wants to bag it, they should bag it in plastic and place it for pick up on trash day. From there, the bags will be picked up and distributed to local farmers to recycle it.
“It’s very important we don’t throw them into our trash because it costs us to get rid of it as opposed to taking it for free,” Bender said.
- Bender is aware the recycling rules are ever-changing and wants to have an open line of communication with the residents.
“If people have questions, I’m happy to help them if they want to call,” she said. “We want people to be aware, we want our children to be aware. We have to educate them,”
To contact Bender, call the department of public works at (856) 629-4444 or email email@example.com.