‘You are stuck’


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New recycling agreement increases curbside pickup cost 7.5% over five-year period

The Pennington Council “reluctantly” approved a shared service agreement with Mercer County that increases service fees year to year for curbside pickup of recycling.

The agreement with Mercer County Improvement Authority, which was approved at a meeting on July 10, begins in 2024 and is for five years.

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“I have a big problem with this,” Council President Catherine Chandler said, claiming the recycling business does “a terrible job.” “It is practically a penny increase on everybody’s taxes … what are we paying for?”

The new agreement is expected to begin January 2024 and conclude Dec. 31, 2028.

“If everyone looks at the cost through the five years, it is increasing 7.5 percent,” Chandler explained. “In 2028, we are going to be paying over $100,000 for recycling so they can throw our plastic in a dump.”

In 2024, Pennington will pay close to $80,000 for the pickup of recycling material, which would increase to $85,416 for 2025 in the initial two-year term.

Then for the one-year renewal periods in 2026, the amount increases to $92,000 for the first option year, followed by $99,000 in the second option year in 2027, and $106,119 for the third option year in 2028.

“Plastic recycling is not really happening,” said Donato Nieman, interim borough administrator. “It is being burned for most of it. The market for paper is better than it has been, but it is not great. Corrugated is your best market, but Rick Smith (superintendent of Public Works) looked at doing it in house, [but] it is not cost effective.”

Nieman added that the Borough would further strain its equipment used for garbage pickup and also need to buy recycling trucks.

“It does not make economic sense to bring it in house, so you are stuck,” Nieman said. “What some municipalities do is contract their garbage and their recycling, but what I can tell you is that South Brunswick does that and they were hit with a massive increase in costs.”

It is not just Mercer County, it is the private sector companies like Waste Management that are doing this.

“It is the market and the market stinks,” he said.

Pennington officials said they will continue reviewing the recycling costs on a yearly basis

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