Single stream could boost local recycling, and rewards

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With single stream recycling poised to go live in all 16 municipalities in Cape May County this spring, officials are working to encourage full participation.

“Some people still think recycling is too hard,” said Lyn Crumbock, the recycling coordinator at the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority. “But, single stream should have a big impact on that. Our numbers are decent here, but we can do better.

“We’ve got to keep people thinking about the benefits of recycling,” she said, “and, it’s not just about the environment, it’s also about the economy.”

Single stream – or “fully commingled” or “single sort” – recycling refers to a system where papers, plastics, metals and glass are mixed in the collection and recycling processes. Cape May County currently relies on “dual stream” recycling, which requires mixed paper fibers to be sorted and kept separate from commingled glass and metal containers.

Local municipalities reap the rewards of recycling by selling the materials gathered, as well as by grants awarded for participation. Higher participation preserves that revenue stream, even if the price being paid for recycled materials dips.

“It’s all about economies of scale in recycling,” said Crumbok. “We need to keep building participation to keep the numbers up.”

To that end, Crumbok has started the push for the Third Annual Countywide Creative Recyling Contest.

“The meet and greet at The Wetlands Institute this Monday is open to the public,” she said. “We will have our committee members there to answer questions. We want to build interest in the art contest to keep recycling on people’s minds.”

The contest, which kicks off on Nov. 15, is an “educational recycling initiative” that has spawned art from bottle caps, plastic bottles and grocery bags in years past.

“Our first year, we had about a 60-40 split in participation, with the larger part being school involvement. Last year, we only had schools sending in entries. We want to bring the whole community back in on this program and encourage a wider range of entries.”

The event, which is open to the public and free of charge, will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29 at The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.

“We want people to come out, find out about the contest and recycling, and help us spread the word,” said Krumbok. “We are really relying on small businesses and local organizations to marshal their resources and promote the project this year.”

On Oct. 22, the state released rebates for municipal recycling participation.

Municipalities in Cape May County will receive more than $240,000 in state grants to help implement and enhance local recycling efforts, according to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.

The funds are being awarded through the Recycling Enhancement Act, which has significantly increased recycling tonnage grants the DEP is able to distribute to almost all of the state’s cities and towns. Statewide, $13.1 million in state grants will be distributed to municipalities.

Lower Township received a $38,371 grant under the award; Cape May netted $10,322. Cape May Point and West Cape May received $589 and $1,394 through the program respectively.

“The numbers should go higher with the switch to single stream,” said Krumbok.

In September, Cape May City was the first in the county to adopt code changes to facilitate the switch to single-stream this spring.

The switch from dual stream to single stream recycling in other municipalities in New Jersey has been shown to increase the quality of the materials recycled, and increased recycling conserves additional natural resources, conserves energy, reduces pollution and extends the life of the Cape May County’s only operating landfill, according to a Lower Township resolution passed last summer in support of the change.

“The recycling program depends upon education and cooperation, with the knowledge that every ton recycled is one ton less headed for a landfill, which is kinder on the environment as well as the township's wallet,” said Mayor Michael Beck of the resolution when it passed.

Charles Norkis, executive director of the CMCMUA, has said the county’s recycling center will need a $3.7 million overhaul to complete the switch to single stream in time for the April 1 goal.

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