This N.J. town is slapping stickers on your recycling bin to help you save money

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Do you feel good about what you’re doing for the planet by diligently putting out your recycling?

Some local officials want you to think again.

The township started slapping stickers on bins on collection days to remind residents about what to put out for recycling and what to leave out.

“The stickers are part of an education campaign we’ve been doing for a couple of months on clean and proper recycling,” said Erin Gill, chief of staff to the township mayor. “We’re picking the days when the recycling is out and putting stickers on the cans.”

The goal is for “cleaner” recycling bins without soiled items or trash that can’t be accepted. Plastic shopping bags, which clog processing facilities, are the main problem.

“If a load is considered contaminated, then the entire truck is deemed unacceptable so all materials, solid waste or recycled content is considered trash,” Gill said.

The township is part of a recycling co-op led by Camden County. Costs for processing the recycling have not risen yet, officials said. But the cost of what to do with all the items that had been going into recycling that are now prohibited could be costly in the future.

The township pays $5 per ton to process recycling and $64.50 per ton for solid waste, Gill said. The recycling market has flipped in the past decade. It had generated revenue for towns and now it is costing a fee to dispose of it.

Plastics with numbers 3 through 6 are not accepted and items that are soiled could contaminate loads of accepted items and cause all to be disposed in trash. Less items a town can recycle means it spends more throwing it away as trash at landfills.

While most of these guidelines have always existed, officials say tighter restrictions from China, which had until recently taken in nearly all of America’s and the world’s recycling, is now rejecting all but the cleanest, most conforming items.

A lively conversation on a Cherry Hill Facebook group was abuzz this week about the new stickers.

One post wondered where the sticker came from and pointed out it appeared on collection day and the recycling in the bin wasn’t picked up.

Gill said collectors aren’t rejecting prohibited items in bins. She said the sticker campaign is to alert residents about items before they end up in the bins.

“What we are seeing now is recycling companies pushing back on municipalities and the county, pushing back to get level of contamination down” Gill said. “We’re trying to do best now minimize.”

The new motto for recycling from the county is: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

“We are working with towns and residents to recognize the new rules as we reengineer what can and cannot be recycled,” said Camden County Freeholder Jon Young. “We can no longer afford for individuals to push the limits of recycling with plastics that will undermine and adulterate a truckload of recycling products.”

Cherry Hill and other towns in the county cooperative recycled 41,969 tons in 2018.

Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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