By Ron Leir
Starting Aug. 1, the Township of Belleville will be following the lead of many other New Jersey communities by switching from separated to commingled or “single-stream” recycling.
Money and convenience are the two factors governing the township’s decision to go this route, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.
“We expect to achieve a savings of $483,000 over the next two years by going with the same vendor for pickups of both regular household trash and recyclables,” Esposito said.
The Township Council voted on May 14 to award Suburban Disposal of Fairfield a one-year contract, with an option for two one-year renewal options.
Suburban, the lone bidder when bids for scavenger/refuse services and for recycling services were received on May 2, will be paid $767,000 for the first year for regular trash collections with options to continue for two more years at the same annual price.
And Suburban will get $209,000 for recyclable pickups for the first year, with an option to renew at $219,000 for the second and third years.
A “Residential Guide to Single-Stream Recycling” published by the township advises residents that under the new system, “all recyclables are placed in the same recycle bin: aluminum and metal cans, newspapers, cartons, books, plastic bottles, paper bags, paperboard, cardboard (flatten all boxes), steel, tin cans and empty aerosol cans, glass bottles and jars, magazines and catalogs and office and paper/ junk mail.”
Residents are reminded not to package recyclables in plastic bags.
Residents should refrain from placing in their recyclable bin any trash, plastic bags, scrap metal, needles or syringes, plastic microwave trays, Styrofoam, organic material and food waste, electronic waste (batteries, cell phones, computers, etc.), paint, pesticides, oil and cleansers, light bulbs, medical waste, hazardous materials, auto parts, or motor oil containers.
Recyclables will be picked up on Wednesdays only. Residents are asked to place their recyclables at curbside on Tuesdays after 5 p.m.
Recyclable bins should be no heavier than 50 pounds.
Leaves, grass and compost will be collected separately in paper leaf bags at curbside on the designated leaf and brush pickup day listed on the township’s recycling calendar.
Calendars are available at the Public Works Department, 429 Stephens St., or may be viewed on the township website, www.bellevillenj.org.
Owners of multi-dwelling buildings will be held responsible for their tenants’ compliance with recycling regulations.
Offenders who fail to comply can expect to receive a summons, and, if found guilty, a fine, officials said.
Belleville, it turns out, is going with the flow on single-stream strategy, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine.
While the state agency lets municipalities choose how to collect recyclables, “we can safely tell you [full commingling] is a trend,” Considine said. “Single stream is now the norm in most counties, as the public and private recycling center operators have been converting their processing operations over to this method over the past couple of years.”
N.J. State League of Municipalities Executive Director William Dressel concurs. “It seems to be a trend to go single stream recycling,” he said, “and the prime motivation is cost savings.”
For example, Dressel added, “We’ve heard of a number of communities working with [the Elizabeth-based contractor] Waste Management. This seems to be one company that’s been aggressive in pushing this.”
Marie Arucan, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, agreed that single stream “is more cost effective” for municipalities but added that’s “only if you have a material processing facility to manage the separation of the recyclables” at the receiving end.
Arucan said the recycling industry’s technology has adapted to market demand “but you have to keep educating people” on putting the right stuff into the recyclable bins. “Contamination is still an issue because it screws up the manufacturing process on the other end [converting recyclables into other products].”
For example, Arucan said, “there are seven or eight different types of plastics but the manufacturers can’t use them all. Milk and soda bottles are preferred by material recovery facilities.”
And although China has a growing demand for recyclables, the country “has put up a ‘green fence’ – it will send back a lot of materials because of contamination,” Arucan said.
Longtime local civic activist Vincent Frantantoni, who often raises concerns about township government decisions, credits Belleville for the change in recycling operations.
“Other towns have been doing it for years,” Frantantoni said. “A few years back, Councilwoman [Marie Strumolo] Burke was complaining that the town looks like hell and that’s because people were putting garbage out every day because of the different days for different types of recyclables.
“Bloomfield has residents put out recyclables and household garbage out on the same day and that’s a more efficient way of doing it,” he said.
Designating one day a week for picking up all recyclables at once “is better from a sanitary standpoint,” Frantantoni said. “Now you won’t have to keep food containers around for two weeks before disposing of them.”
“I’m in favor of [the new policy],” he said.“I can finally give the [Township] Council an A on this. I’ve been giving them Ds and Fs on everything else.”
Currently, the township schedules pickups of bottles and cans every two weeks, as it does for paper and cardboard. Collection days are keyed to each of five residential zones.