Officials: Investing In Recycling Pays Off

Ocean County Commissioner Barbara Jo Crea recently addressed Ocean County’s municipal recycling coordinators during a meeting at the Northern Ocean County Recycling Center, Lakewood. (Photo courtesy Ocean County)

  OCEAN COUNTY – Thanks to a substantial investment in the recycling program – plus an improved global market – the program is seeing its most profitable year in the last decade.

  “After a few down years we have returned to a more robust profit as we are the highest of all time and the highest since 2011,” said Ocean County Commissioner Barbara Jo Crea, who serves as liaison to the county’s recycling program.

  She added, “this is very good news for our residents, our municipalities and for our environment.” The County along with the rest of New Jersey was struggling in maintaining its regional recycling programs and keeping them cost effective since 2019.

  “The market for recyclables took a big hit when China began declining the materials it was being sent,” Crea said. “We found ourselves with a lot of recyclables and nowhere to send them. To develop a more marketable product, (county leaders) made the commitment to invest in the county’s recycling program in order to improve equipment and the cleanliness of the product.”

  “Ultimately, the Board’s investment of over $5 million along with the materials recovery facility (MRF) operator’s investment at the Northern Ocean County Recycling Center in Lakewood, and combined with an improved global market, enabled 2021 to be Ocean County’s most profitable year in a decade,” she added.

  Last year, more than 81,544 tons of material were recycled in Ocean County. This translated to almost $2.4 million in profit. Revenue per ton was $123.31, which is greater than $100 a ton for the first time since 2012.

  Commissioner Crea noted the profits have permitted Ocean County to fully recover from losses incurred in 2019 and 2020. “If the recycling market remains consistent, the county hopes to resume revenue sharing with its municipalities in 2022.”

  Ocean County shares its recycling revenues with its municipalities prior to the downturn in the recycling market. Since 1995, when the Recycling Revenue Sharing Program was created, the county has distributed almost $17 million to the municipalities that participate in the county’s recycling program.

   The amount returned to the towns is based on the number of recyclables collected and brought to the county and the price per commodity in the current market. Municipalities use the money as needed although many invest it back into the recycling program.

  The improvements in the program now allow the county to accept more items as recyclable, including paperboard, chipboard, plastics 1, 2, and 5 – the number found inside the recycling triangle on the object.

  However, plastic bags are still not allowed, not even to hold bottles or cans. The bags jam up the machines.

  Additionally, new machines have helped make the operation run more smoothly, Crea said, such as two optical sorters and a high speed paper baler.