Rising New Jersey Recycling Revenue Means Cities Are Getting More Money Back

After a few dismal years, the revenue from recycling is returning and many cities in Garden State are recovering more from their recycling – some spectacularly.

Clifton, for example, had planned to raise $ 40,000 in recycling revenue for the whole of 2021. As of July, the city was collecting more than $ 40,000 per month for its recyclables, said city manager Nick Villano.

“We had planned to (recover) 10%,” Villano said. “But now there is a lot more to come.”

Perhaps Clifton’s income has grown so much because, unlike many communities, the city has never stopped requiring residents to sort its recycling, by type, glass, paper, metal, etc.

“I’m told we’re doing well because our product is clean,” Villano said.

Columnist Joe Phalon remembers the good times he spent at the recycling center.

It was only in recent weeks that the city stopped requiring residents to separate glass by color.

The city also plans to pick up recycling every two weeks rather than once every three weeks after the first of the year.

The biggest money generator, Villano said, is cardboard, in part because more people are ordering products online and having them delivered during the COVID pandemic. Plastic and aluminum also performed well.

Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi said the increase in payments helps offset the overall cost of recycling.

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The city spends about $ 1.7 million to operate its recycling program, covering everything from labor to insurance. At the current rate, the money received for recycling materials along with the state’s annual tonnage subsidy of about $ 140,000 could reduce the net costs to $ 1.1 million.

The market

A number of factors have improved the recycling market for cities, said Marie Kruzan, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers,

“The demand is high,” she said. “The mills need equipment.

The industry is just starting to recover from China’s ban on most imported recyclables that went into effect in 2018 as many cities switched to single-stream recycling, which contaminated the materials. recyclable with non-recyclable materials. As part of a single-flow system, residents can combine paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum and plastic in a single container rather than separating them.

Some experts have said that single-stream recycling increases the amount of collected materials by up to 30% and provides more income for cities that sell their recyclables. But given China’s crackdown, some in the industry have questioned the wisdom of moving to a single-stream system. They say so much garbage gets mixed up with recyclable materials that it drastically reduces their value.

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With a shortage of truck drivers in the United States, shipping costs have increased, so it makes more sense for cities to keep more of their recyclables locally, especially on the east coast, which is more remote from potential Asian markets.

As a result, national factories are springing up, not in New Jersey, but in Pennsylvania and the South.

Rick Ramsay, of Atlantic Coast Recycling, among the bales of recyclable products in Passaic on Friday, June 15, 2018.

Chris Riviello of Atlantic Coast Fibers said that after the ban imposed by China and the resulting market collapse in 2018, it took a while for things to “die out”.

“Last year things got better and better,” he said. But “the market can change on a whim,” he warned.

The recyclables collected by Atlantic Coast are sold internationally and nationally, but he agreed that new domestic factories are driving demand.

While Clifton’s recycling payments eclipse those of Fair Lawn, the municipality is also seeing lower recycling costs, said Ron Lottermann, its recycling coordinator.

“Compared to last year, we are paying less,” Lottermann said.

In the first half of 2020, the market was miserable. Fair Lawn’s monthly costs to operate its recycling program were $ 15,000 to $ 17,000. But as the demand for collected recyclables began to increase, bringing in more money for the product, the net cost to Fair Lawn of collecting recyclables dropped significantly, to $ 1,600 per month.

A loaded front end is used to move recycling material into the Atlantic Coast Recycling sorting area.  This is where residential curbside recycling ends up in northern New Jersey at their Passaic plant on Friday, June 15, 2018.

The biggest problem that remains and continues to cost Fair Lawn is that people are contaminating the recycling stream with plastic bags and other non-recyclable materials. When their recyclable stream is too contaminated, Fair Lawn faces a contamination fee, which can reach $ 6,000 per month.

“People don’t realize they are wasting their taxes,” Lottermann said.

Riviello agreed that cities could do themselves a favor by having less contaminants in the waste stream.

“It has definitely improved,” he said, “but there is a lot of education to be done.”


Kruzan said no one knew how long the current increase in demand for collected recyclable materials would last.

She said in the coming months, new recycling plants will begin to come into operation, further increasing the demand for collected recyclables.

She also said that the recycling market has a seasonal aspect. Aluminum is at a premium in the warmer months. Demand for recycled cardboard will likely remain strong as the Christmas season approaches, and people are ordering even more products online for delivery.

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