Monday, November 16, 2009

New Jersey sets new recycling grant record

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is awarding $14.5 million in grants to boost local recycling efforts--nearly twice as much as last year's $8 million and almost three times higher than the previous high of $5.5 million set in 1995.

What accounts for the difference?

The Recycling Enhancement Act, a law passed in 2008, which sets a $3-per-ton surcharge trash taken to disposal facilities in the state.

The law was enacted to provide municipalities and counties with more funds for recycling programs, including education and enforcement (the carrot and the stick).

The amount that each municipality is receiving this year is based on its respective recycling level in 2007, the last year for which official figures have been established.

The DEP reports that, in 2007, New Jersey:
  • Recycled 12.4 million tons of a total 21.6 million tons of solid waste, for an overall recycling rate of 57.3 percent. This includes all types of waste, including municipal solid waste as well as bulky waste such as construction and demolition debris, scrap metal and wood.

  • Of the total amount above, the state recycled 3.8 million tons of some 10.5 million tons of municipal solid waste, for a municipal solid waste recycling rate of 36.5 percent. Materials recycled as part of municipal programs includes paper, cardboard, glass, metal cans and plastic.

The expectation is that the additional funding will enable counties and towns to improve the state's overall recycling numbers which have been on the decline in recent years.

The danger is that cash-starved municipalities will look to siphon off some of the recycling funds for other purposes. State law forbids such diversions, but the temptation will be there, making state-level auditing and other oversight practices more important than ever.

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