Metuchen closes dropoff recycling center due to changes in the global market place

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METUCHEN — Due to the increasing costs of processing recycling because of changes in the global market place, Metuchen officials have decided to close the dropoff recycling center on Jersey Avenue.

“We used to process recycling at no cost, and in prior years, we used to make money on recycling,” Borough Administrator Jay Muldoon said at a Borough Council meeting on Sept. 17. “Starting in July, we started paying $45 a ton to dispose of our recycling material As we have already seen, that price is subject to increases depending on the marketplace. In August, the rate per ton has gone up and is now $50 a ton. So, on an annual basis, the cost to the borough is now going to be up to $90,000 or more. … We can no longer incur that cost.”

Muldoon said the changes in the global market include China’s decision in January to stop taking recycling materials from other countries. He had said China had been taking one-third of the world’s recycling — 16 million tons — every year from the United States.

“To minimize the cost and challenges that the borough faces because of these changes, we do need to modify our recycling policy while continuing to honor our longstanding commitment to recycling,” he said.

Muldoon said there will be no changes to pickup of co-mingled recyclables from all residential homes each week.

Muldoon said the closing of the dropoff center on Sept. 30 ensures the DPW processes recycling materials only from borough residents and some businesses and will result in annual savings of at least $50,000.

“Many who use the dropoff center come from neighboring towns,” he said.

The DPW had been working on limiting non-residents from dropping off recycled material at the center; however, Muldoon said it was not effective.

“It has come to the realization some businesses and contractors have kind of been taking advantage of our dropoff recycling center, frequently dropping off large quantities of cardboard and materials, sometimes multiple times a day,” he said.

Muldoon noted residents, who may have used the dropoff center to drop off over-sized cardboard, may call DPW and schedule a time on a Wednesdays for DPW to pick the items up at no charge to the resident.

The recycling policy changes apply to apartment and condominium complexes and businesses who use private haulers for garbage pickup.

“They now must get a private hauler for their cardboard and other recycling materials,” Muldoon said. “We believe the cost associated with recycling materials generated by businesses should be a cost of doing business and it shouldn’t be a cost passed on to the taxpayers of Metuchen. … This is the rationale behind that change.”

Muldoon said as for electronics, the borough is setting five different days and times — two in October, one in November and two in December — for residents to drop the items off at the recycling center or the DPW garage. The days and times will be posted on the borough’s website.

Also he said the Middlesex County Solid Waste Management offers a list of recycling centers that accept tires and cooking oil.

Muldoon said the global market is evolving and the rate per ton on recycling may change; however, in the interim, the borough has to be responsible and take control of the cost increases.

Councilman Todd Pagel said with the policy changes in processing recycled materials, it may be the right time to also start talking about ways the borough and its residents could reduce the creation of garbage.

“This is a great catalyst to have that discussion,” he said.

Muldoon and Mayor Jonathan Busch agreed. Busch and Muldoon said they anticipate the process of recycling topic to be discussed at the New Jersey League of Municipalities conference in November since it impacts every municipality in the state, as well as across the country.

Contact Kathy Chang at [email protected].