A SUBSTANTIAL investment to Ocean County's regional recycling program along with increasing improvements to the recycled materials market is allowing the county to expand on what residents currently toss in their recycling bins.
"Since 2019, this Board of Commissioners in partnership with our materials recovery facility operator, has invested more than $5 million for improvements at the recycling materials processing facility at our Northern Recycling Center in Lakewood," said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioner Gary Quinn. "We are beginning to reach the other side of what has been a difficult time in our recycling program. Our investment is paying off and I am pleased to announce this expansion."
More plastics, more paper and more metals can now be placed in the single-stream recycling containers placed curbside by residents.
"We are expanding on the current stream of items already collected," said Quinn, who is liaison to the County recycling program. "This ultimately decreases the amount of materials going to the landfill and helps our municipalities save on landfill tipping costs.
"And, of course, the more we recycle, the greater the environmental benefits," he added.
Starting now, in addition to office papers and newspapers, the county will accept paperboard and chipboard.
"All of those cereal boxes, food boxes, tissue boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls can now be placed with all the other household recyclables for collection," Quinn said. "Aluminum foil and aluminum trays that have been cleaned also can now be recycled."
The County is also accepting plastics 1, 2 and 5. Residents can determine if a plastic item can be recycled by checking for the number printed inside the recycling triangle on the object. Plastic bags however are unacceptable materials for curbside recycling.
"In the past we focused on items like water and soda bottles, and any plastic container that's neck was smaller than the container body," Quinn said. "Now we are adding items like butter and yogurt containers, fast food beverage cups, microwavable food containers, plastic lids and other plastic items. Items should be cleaned before placed in a recycling receptacle."
Quinn noted this expansion comes on the heels of substantial upgrades that have been completed at the county's materials recycling facility located on New Hampshire Avenue in Lakewood. Ocean County also operates a regional recycling facility in Stafford Township.
Ocean County made every effort to respond to the downturn in the recycling market and now things are beginning to turn around, Quinn said.
"Our goal is to position our Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Lakewood as one of New Jersey's most state-of-the-art recycling facilities, capable of responding to the challenges of a continuously evolving global recyclables market," Quinn said. "Starting in 2019 and in partnership with our MRF operator, Atlantic Coast Recycling, Ocean County has invested more than $5 million in improvements and needed upgrades for our recycling facility."
The upgrades included the installation of two new optical sorters that have helped increase the MRF's overall production from 18 tons per hour to 25 tons per hour. A new glass sorting and cleanup system has improved glass separation and quality and lowered maintenance and trash disposal costs, saving recycling operations about $30,000 a month.
In addition, a new high speed paper baler has reduced maintenance costs, increases the MRF's speed and efficiency and reduced production costs per ton.
"The baler and higher quality paper being produced has made a big difference in revenues from under $20 per ton of mixed paper produced to more than $100," Quinn said. "Exceptional paper quality means it can be marketed anywhere in the world which is vitally important."
"All of these improvements have resulted in improved quality of the materials and lowered costs," he said.
In 2020, Ocean County sorted nearly 87,000 tons of recyclables. More than 286,000 households sent their recyclables to the county weekly.
"Recycling today is about adapting to market fluctuations, and Ocean County has found the best way to do so is to be proactive about facility improvements and diligent about educating residents on today's recycling goals and best practices," Quinn said. "It's not enough to just throw items in a can, it's imperative to recycle right. That provides us with the greatest environmental and financial benefits."
Click Here for a full breakdown of acceptable vs. non-acceptable items.
"We anticipate a large publicity campaign about the new items that will help our residents and visitors in their ongoing efforts to recycle right," Quinn said.