Children, and adults, learn about recycling at Vogelson Regional Branch Library

As recycling issues continue to haunt municipalities, efforts to better teach residents are underway

Plastic bags, pizza boxes, ice cream containers and No. 6 plastic – what is trash and what can be recycled?

Countless municipalities across New Jersey, and the country, are dealing with the issue of recycling as countries across Atlantic and Pacific oceans continue to no longer accept recyclable material from other countries.

As local governments and departments of public works struggle with how to potentially ease the burden of recycling costs and contamination in recycling bins by residents, Camden County is also doing its part to help spread awareness, no matter how small.

Camden County Environmental Educator Marissa Wolfe visited the Vogelson Regional Branch Library Wednesday, Aug. 14 for a “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” event, meeting with young children to discuss the topic with them through fun activities.

With children being the future, the impact of teaching correct recycling knowledge can save time, energy and money in the present and future.

“At a young age is where they’re most impressionable and they’ll change their habits more easily than adults,” said Wolfe. “Plus, they can get their parents to change their habits as well by using the stuff they learn here.”

Wolfe has held various environmental and recycling seminars across Camden County over the past few years, meeting adults, teens and young children at schools, libraries and more to discuss various topics under the recycling and sustainability umbrella.

At her most recent event at the library in Voorhees, Wolfe taught the children in attendance about what can be recycled and what should be thrown in the trash. For example, pizza boxes should often just be thrown out due to the grease making the cardboard unable to be recycled. As for ice cream containers, the same should be done due to a plastic liner on the inside of the carton that protects from freezer burn, thus making it also unrecyclable.

At the conclusion of the event, Wolfe handed out a single-stream recycling fact sheet for the children to take home, in hopes that they will follow the guidelines, while also having parents jump in to follow the rules more closely moving forward as well.

Julie Calem brought her daughter to the event in hopes that it would be something for her daughter to do. After being there, Calem says she learned that she’s been recycling incorrectly with certain items and is now going to change her family’s efforts at home to better help the recycling process.

“This is a great program for adults as well,” said Calem. “I didn’t know much of the information here that she presented. I had no idea that you can’t recycle pizza boxes because of the grease, I just threw away four this past weekend. Now that I know that anything with food remnants really can’t be recycled either, it really makes me rethink things.”

Calem says, moving forward, she plans to put the recycling dos and don’ts flier from the event above her trash can at home to better sort her family’s trash and recyclable material.

“It’ll go right above the can to figure out what can and can’t go in, because I feel like I’m doing everything wrong right now, starting with the pizza boxes,” said Calem.

But Calem is reflective of a large portion Camden County, New Jersey and Unites States residents who might not have been aware of recycling efforts over the years until just recently. A certain threshold of contamination in a municipality’s recycling can make an entire batch unrecyclable or cause an increased charge in recycling to the township or borough.

For more information, residents can visit CamdenCounty.com/Recycling to find the single-stream recycling flier, as well as additional information.

Wolfe has presented at schools and libraries across Camden County, but is always looking for new events to teach residents, young and old, about recycling and sustainability efforts. If you would like Wolfe to visit a program or event in your community, contact her at Marissa.Wolfe@camdencounty.com.