State Officials Struggle with Loss of Recycling Markets


A decade ago, most towns required residents to separate their recyclables into multiple bins. But in an effort to boost recycling participation, many municipalities switched to a single-stream system, where everything is commingled in one bin, to be sorted later at recycling facilities and the public has become lazy. In hindsight, it’s turned out to be a significant problem because many recycling cans are now contaminated. Some towns have instituted a “tag and leave” program, leaving contaminated loads at the curb and tag them with an explanation for the homeowner when they can see plastic bags or Styrofoam or something else not allowed in your recycling. Studies show that’s the only thing that changes behavior. “Over the past 10 years New Jersey has really hit a recycling crisis,” said Randall Solomon, executive director of Sustainable Jersey. “I’d say we as a state and as a country — even the world — are at a critical juncture.”

Crisis Changes Recycling

One year ago, China stopped accepting most American scrap plastic and cardboard - rejecting all but the cleanest, most conforming items - throwing a wrench into U.S. recycling programs. Now, cities and towns across the U.S. are dealing with piles of homeless plastic with no clear destination because markets for #4, #5, and #7 plastics are now almost non-existent and plastic bags are considered a contaminant. As a result, these items are in many cases leaving the recycling facility as trash and being landfilled. In the past 10 years Camden County, like many other places, started Single Stream Recycling, where residents combine all recyclable materials into one container for pickup. The Borough of Merchantville will continue to educate residents about effective, clean recycling measures. Recently, neighboring municipalities have experienced their recycling rejected due to contamination. Let’s all reduce how much plastic we use and remember, only plastic #1 & #2 can be placed in the blue bins. The following items should be placed in your curbside recycling container: Newspaper • mixed paper including junk mail • magazines • catalogs • school papers • office papers etc… • paper packaging • paperboard cartons for foods such as cereal boxes, pasta boxes and tissue boxes, etc… • softcover books • phone books • cardboard • glass bottles and jars • aluminum and steel cans • aluminum and steel lids • CLEAN CONTAINERS like Plastic bottles and jars with #1 or #2 found on the bottom • milk and juice cartons • paper towel and toilet paper inserts.



When in Doubt

When in doubt, THROW IT OUT. Beginning on July 26th, recycle cans in Merchantville will not be picked up if items such as, plastic bags, pizza boxes and plastics other than #1 and #2 are mixed in the can. Cans will be tagged and residents will receive a flyer on the can with the guidelines for items that can be recycled. Camden County wants to make single stream recycling easy and will only accept rinsed plastic or glass bottles, jars and jugs, rinsed aluminum and steel cans, clean paper, and clean cardboard.  If you are unsure if a piece is recyclable, just throw it out. For more information regarding the guidelines visit

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