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Hows and Whys of Recycling

Most residents in Gloucester County have accepted recycling as an everyday practice. Even though most residents and businesses in Gloucester County have been recycling for years, there are still many questions that are raised daily on the practice. This section of this web site will help to answer some of the most frequently asked recycling-related questions:

Why is recycling important and why do I have to do it?

One of the most important reasons to recycle is because it’s the law. On April 20, 1987, New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean signed into law the Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act. This law requires all residents, businesses, and institutional facilities in New Jersey to separate certain materials from the regular solid waste stream for recycling. Recycling is also mandated by the Gloucester County Solid Waste Management Plan and through local ordinances in all municipalities. Recycling also helps to conserve our natural resources. For instance, making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95% less energy than producing them using virgin materials. Likewise, new glass bottles and containers can be made using 50% less energy by utilizing recycled materials. In addition, every ton of paper made from recycled materials saves the equivalent of 17 trees. Preserving landfill space is another important reason to recycle. By reducing the amount of solid waste through recycling, less garbage has to be disposed of in landfills or processed at resource recovery facilities. Municipalities also realize a cost-avoidance for virtually all the materials they recycle when compared to the costs associated with disposing of the materials as a solid waste.

“Recyclable” vs. “Recycled” What’s the Difference?

Currently, there are no legal definitions for these terms, which may lead to consumers being confused and mislead. As a general rule:

  • Products are Recyclable only if your local recycling program accepts them.
  • Recycled means that an item has been made partially or totally from recycled materials. Look for the words “post consumer”, especially on paper products. This means the item was made from materials that were bought, used, recycled and remanufactured.
  • Biodegradability is relevant only if you plan to put the item in your compost pile. Almost nothing biodegrades in a landfill, where light and air space are scarce. Plastics, which claim to be biodegradable, in reality only break down in small bits of plastic, and are generally unsuitable for recycling.

Why do some towns recycle materials that others don’t?

The Gloucester County Solid Waste Management Plan requires that all residents, businesses, and institutional facilities recycle newspaper, glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, bi-metal cans, plastic #1 PET Containers, and plastic #2 HDPE Containers. Depending upon the town in which you live, there may be other materials that are required to be recycled by your municipality. These items may include, but are not limited to, corrugated cardboard, wood and brush, leaves, grass clippings, and scrap metal. Since each municipal recycling program is operated by that specific municipality, the materials recycled and the collection procedures vary by each town. For a listing of the materials that are required to be recycled in your town, please refer to the municipal recycling section of this web site.

What about businesses and multifamily dwellings?

All businesses in Gloucester County are required to recycle the same materials as the residents in their municipality. In addition, the Gloucester County Solid Waste Management Plan requires all businesses to also recycle corrugated cardboard, high-grade office paper, motor oil, and clean wood waste. Gloucester County also encourages the recycling of food waste in the commercial and institutional sectors.

  • Businesses seeking information on recycling should contact the GCIA/Office of Recycling for further details.
  • Multifamily dwellings, which include apartment and condominium complexes, are required to recycle the same materials as all other residents in the municipality. While some towns collect recyclables from multifamily dwellings, it is the responsibility of the owner or complex management to implement a recycling program. If you live in a multifamily dwelling that does not recycle, please contact the GCIA/Office of Recycling for information on establishing a program.

How do I prepare my materials for recycling?

  • Newspapers: Bundle and tie newspapers in small stacks. Some municipalities will also accept newspapers in paper grocery bags. Some municipalities also accept junk mail, newspaper inserts, magazines, and phone books in their paper recycling program. Contact your municipality for further details.
  • Glass bottles and jars: Glass containers should be rinsed well. Labels do not have to be removed. No drinking glasses, plates, window glass, crystal, or automotive glass will be collected for recycling.
  • Aluminum, tin, and steel cans: All cans should be rinsed well. Labels do not have to be removed. If you are uncertain of a container’s metal type, test it with a magnet. Magnets will not stick to aluminum.
  • Leaves: Under the New Jersey Recycling Act leaves are banned from disposal in all landfills and must be kept separate from regular trash. Contact your municipality regarding leaf and other vegetative waste disposal options in your town.
  • Other materials: Contact your municipality to determine the disposal procedures for other materials required to be recycled in your town.

What about plastics??

All municipalities in Gloucester County are now required to recycle plastics. However, only certain grades of plastics will be collected for recycling. This is because only Polyethylene Terephalate (PET #1) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE #2) have established recycling markets. Plastic manufactures are currently developing new recycling techniques for all plastic grades, but as of now only PET #1 and HDPE #2 are economically practical to be included in municipal recycling programs. It’s easy to determine if a certain plastic container you have can be put out for recycling. Simply look on the bottom of the container and you should see the recycling symbol (3 chasing arrows) with a number in the center. If the number is a #1 or a #2, the container can be accepted for recycling. In order to save space in your recycling bin, remove the caps and crush the plastic container.

Be a “Green” Shopper

Follow these simple rules:

1. Don’t buy what you don’t need.
2. When you make purchases, choose products that are durable and reusable, not disposable.
3. When buying disposables, choose products in recyclable packages and recycle them. Also select packages that are recycled.
4. Select products with the least amount of packaging.
5. Choose products that are safe and nontoxic.
6. Let your voice be heard. Tell people what you think about recycling.