Recycling: Getting It Right

Recycling_Getting_it_Right_R2.pngEarth Day is just a few weeks away. Many of us try to be environmentally aware all year round, particularly in our recycling efforts. But, if you’re conscientious about recycling, it can get complicated at times. For example, can you recycle bottles and leave the label? (You can.) Can you recycle pizza boxes? (Nope).

There is no argument that recycling, especially as the world produces more trash, is the prudent choice from an environmental standpoint. But because the subject is laden with advice — some of it faulty — it makes sense to get it right.

I would urge everyone to visit the Burlington County Recycling Program’s website,, to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of recycling. It is full of advice and clarifications and offers a FAQs that answers many of those pesky questions that often arise. Most important, it provides advice and information that you can trust.

If Burlington County’s Recycling program offers a broad overview of recycling glass, plastics, and paper, there is one specific type of material that I have given extra focus: Styrofoam. Specifically, I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1486, which would prohibit the sale of food and beverages in Styrofoam food containers in public schools and institutions of higher learning in New Jersey.

Why my effort on the single substance? Banning Styrofoam containers in our public schools and colleges is a simple, common-sense step toward creating a more sustainable environment in New Jersey. Ridding our schools of non-biodegradable products that cannot be recycled or reused teaches our students — young and old — to be more environmentally aware.

Seeing this particular legislation advance is especially satisfying for me because a group of students from Charles Street School in Palmyra proposed it. Not only does this legislation teach them to make smart choices and avoid Styrofoam products, but it also gives them a real-life civics lesson on how one good, smart idea can become an actual law. I hope that this proposal continues to move through the Legislature and ultimately gets signed into law.

And to drive home the need for this legislation, Henry Gajda, with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, told New Jersey legislators that it takes about 500 years for Styrofoam to biodegrade. “As it breaks apart, it becomes increasingly embedded in our lands and waters littering our coast with toxic shards of expanded foam,” he said in a news interview. “It has the hazardous ability to absorb toxins, heavy metal and pesticide, bioaccumulating throughout the food chain, generating imminent and persist threats throughout these ecosystems and to public health.”

My legislative initiative tackles a very specific problem. But surely all of us recognize the need and impact of recycling, which has a very long tail and impacts everyone. Recycling helps to limit resources, something our society has only begun to grapple with in recent decades. When done properly, it can add to energy efficiency. It can also be a catalyst for developing a sense of community, which is always welcome. And for the entrepreneurial types, there’s the opportunity for profitable businesses.

Is there a bottom line to all of this? There is, and it is one that is more than just for ourselves and our children. It is the hope of a cleaner, safer environment -— the greater good — for all people, everywhere, that will extend far into the future. And I hope that bottom line begins with banning Styrofoam products here in New Jersey.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

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