By Kristen Rolfes Hall, Rumson Environmental Commission Chair
November 15th is National Recycling Day and it’s a perfect time to refine your family’s recycling practices. Are you confused about what can be recycled? Are you looking for ideas of where to recycle those difficult items? Read on….
If your family is anything like mine, there is a lot of confusion over what can be recycled and how to recycle. I find there is a lot of “wish-cycling” going on in my kitchen… I open the recycling bin and find lightbulbs & batteries (after all, it is just glass and metal) or plastic bags and fishing twine (“Mom, plastic is recyclable!”). Sometimes I even find a half-filled jar of peanut butter or plastic “to go” container filled with food… But the truth is when things are not recycled properly, it can mean that the entire bin of recycling is contaminated and must be sent to the landfill. The reason for this is simple; old food, grease, and things like plastic bags and tanglers like rope, fishing line, or Christmas lights can break the machinery used to separate recycling at the processing plant. If a load of contaminated recycling comes in, it is simply put in a pile that is taken to the landfill instead of facing the risk of having to shut down and fix a broken processor. This graphic that we designed in collaboration with the Rumson Garden Club and our recycling processor, Mazza Recycling, helps my family.
Some general rules of thumb can help. Most glass, metal, and plastic containers as well as most paper products you use are recyclable. The general exceptions to each material are listed here:
GLASS: Drinking glasses, stemware, plate glass like mirrors & windows, or any heat-resistant glass like Pyrex are NOT recyclable. Also, any glass container with non-glass components like a Grolsch beer bottle with the ceramic top attached or a glass jar with a metal clasp attached cannot be recycled with your household recyclables.
PLASTIC: Only plastics with the numbers 1, 2 & 5 stamped inside the triangle can be recycled curbside with your household items at this time.
METAL: Metal is very easily recycled and most clean metal is accepted curbside. Things like metal wire, batteries, or anything that is made with a combination of materials like a small appliance or toys are not accepted curbside.
PAPER & CARDBOARD: Paper products are also very easily and efficiently recycled and are widely accepted curbside. The exception is wet paper or cardboard, hardcover books, or anything with food remnants or grease, like a pizza box.
But what about the multitude of other things you want to get out of your house, but don’t know what to do with them besides throw them away in the trash? No matter how hard I try, I still end up with plastic film, plastic bags, single-use containers, styrofoam packaging, old furniture, and toys, etc. that I just don’t want to send off to be put in the landfill. To help, I have compiled a list of ideas for those hard to recycle items:
Plastic packaging: Plastic bags, plastic film, bubble wrap, and other forms of soft plastic packaging are accepted at most larger grocery stores like ACME, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods. The Rumson School district is planning to begin accepting these items again as part of the annual TREX contest where they are recycled into playground equipment, boardwalk timbers, planters, and benches.
Styrofoam: The white blocks of Styrofoam that come in delivery boxes can be taken to Middletown train station or Middletown recycling center to be melted down and made into other products.
Metal Coat Hangers: Rumson Cleaners and most other dry cleaners will take them back to reuse.
Shoes: There are several shoe recycling programs nearby. DSW on Routh 36 participates in the Soles4Souls program and accepts drop-offs. Also, the Nike store at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets in Tinton Falls has a recycling program.
Toys: Gently used toys can be donated to organizations like Madonna House in Neptune.
Electronics and small appliances: Can be dropped off at Monmouth County Recycling facility or sold to Monmouth Wire & Computer Recycling and are accepted at many municipal recycling depots during special recycling days.
Shredded paper: Many towns such as Rumson offer paper shredding days where they will not only shred your sensitive documents but will accept shredded paper as well.
To be sure, our way of life is dependent on many of the things discussed in this article, but we can all make small changes to help minimize our impact on the world around us. Below is a list of some ways you can be part of the solution.
Recycle everything that can be recycled. Refer to the Recycling guidelines graphic or visit our website for detailed information on recycling.
Avoid single-serve items, instead, buy in bulk and package items yourself in reusable containers if you need smaller portions or something “to-go”.
Do not use a straw in your drink unless they are biodegradable and ask retailers to make the switch.
Ask for non-Styrofoam “to-go” containers. Styrofoam is one of the hardest things to recycle and one of the most damaging to the planet! Let your favorite stores know that you would prefer that they “go green.”
Say NO to disposable plastic water bottles; instead, purchase a reusable water bottle and refill as necessary. Use a reusable coffee travel mug instead of using a paper cup for your hot drinks on the go.
Avoid disposable plastic bags when shopping; instead purchase a few reusable ones to keep in your car or purse. My favorite is Envirosax because they are super cute, made from recycled polyester, and fold up so small & light you can always have them in your purse, diaper bag, or backpack.
Transition to natural plastic alternatives that can biodegrade, such as biodegradable or compostable plastic bags, cups, plates, and cutlery made from plant fibers.
In place of virgin paper, purchase only recycled paper products, which are readily available at most mainstream and specialty retailers.
Start composting at your home. Most kitchen scraps and yard waste can be composted into nutrient-rich soil for your lawn and garden.
Kristen Rolfes Hall is Chair of the Rumson Environmental Commission, whose mission is to work with the community to protect our unique natural resources. We educate our residents on what we can do to maintain and protect our land, water, and air, facilitate the adoption of behaviors that will meet those ends, and motivate residents and local businesses to join in the effort. For more information on recycling and other environmental issues visit us at www.rumsonnj.gov/env