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How to Recycle Items in New Jersey

How to Recycle Items in New Jersey

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In the state of New Jersey, recycling has come a long way since its first mandatory recycling legislation in 1987. With new provisions compiled throughout the last 30 years, NJ is dedicated to conserving natural resources, saving energy, and reducing emissions of water and air pollutants. Recycling is encouraged as a way for people to express their commitment to the environment.

What is Recyclable in New Jersey?

New Jersey recycles the following:

  • Construction waste
  • Electronics
  • Glass
  • Hazardous waste
  • Household items
  • Organic waste
  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Textiles

In the state of NJ, residents are charged for trash collection, depending on how much is thrown away. The “Pay-as-you-Throw” system encourages people to reduce the amount of waste they produce and separate recyclables carefully. In communities with “Pay-as-you-Throw” programs, comparison studies show more materials are recycled and less waste is disposed of in contrast to neighboring towns.

Although not all materials are collected at your curbside collection bins, you can take certain items to your local municipal recycling center during their available recycling schedules or hours of operation.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, about 4 million tons of municipal waste was recycled in 2017, amounting to a recycling rate of 40%. In the same year, about 14 million tons of solid waste were documented for a recycling rate of 60%.


NJ residents recycled close to 1.6 million tons of paper and corrugated cardboard and composted almost 667,000 tons of leaves. While most people do well with recycling small items such as plastic and glass, it’s an easy process to recycle concrete, asphalt, brick and block as well. More than 5.9 million tons of these items were recycled in 2017.

How to Recycle E-Waste in NJ

E-waste refers to materials such as electronics, cell phones and printer cartridges. Computers, monitors, laptops, DVD players, game consoles and televisions are also accepted items.

E-waste occurs when any electrical item becomes superseded, obsolete, broken or damaged. Because the technology industry is consistently evolving, the life span of electronics is shortening, creating an increased e-waste problem. Only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s the fastest-growing municipal waste stream in America.


Recycling e-waste items is important to prevent toxic chemicals from polluting the environment. Substances of concern from electronic devices are mercury, lead, cadmium and brominated flame retardants. Although e-waste only accumulates to 2% of America’s trash in landfills, it equals about 70% of the overall toxic waste.

Electronic devices also contain materials such as aluminum, copper, plastic, steel and other metals that can be manufactured into new products. The materials are separated from articles such as computers and TVs to be returned to the marketplace and repurposed into new products. For example, for every 1 million cell phones recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver and 75 lbs of gold can be recovered.

E-waste Laws, Legislation and Related Information

In a bill signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in January 2017, New Jersey’s recycling program for e-waste was revamped. The bill states manufacturers are now responsible for the cost of recycling e-waste. NJ towns and counties no longer need to find additional funds for electronic disposals. The legislation is designed to place an obligation on manufacturers regarding recycling e-waste, which often includes toxic materials.

In 2011, the bureau of recycling made it illegal for New Jersey consumers to place e-waste in the general trash. For common households and businesses smaller than 50 people, recyclables can be dropped off at local recycling centers without charge. Most municipal and county drop-off areas require proof of residency in NJ. All commercial businesses are required to arrange for electronics to be collected. To learn more about recycling options near you, contact your local recycling coordinator for e-waste.

If you choose to take your electronics to a recyclable electronics retail store, make sure it is considered an e-Steward. An e-Steward store meets the highest standards for how to recycle e-waste materials and stops the illegal exportation of hazardous e-waste to developing nations. Only e-Steward certifications are endorsed by major environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenspace.

Before recycling electronic devices, you should remove all personal information. Personal information can be found on computers, tablets, cell phones and laptops. For example, wiping a mobile phone begins with backing up your personal data and transferring any information you wish to keep. Next, remove the SIM card and any external storage, log out of any applications and clear the data from each one.

You can also perform a separate wipe of data on the SD card if you plan to use a new one in the future. Most phones have a factory reset button. It will restart your phone to appear the same as it did when you purchased it.

How to Recycle Cardboard in NJ

Most corrugated cardboard is accepted in New Jersey curbside bins for recycling. In the case it is not, you can recycle it at any local municipal recycling center. Thick, corrugated cardboard should be treated separately from thinner cardboard food boxes such as cereal boxes.

Depending on where you live in NJ, some areas may require you to separate corrugated cardboard from general recycling. You can fold the cardboard and tie the materials together with a string for easy pick up. Regardless of separation rules, cardboard needs to be broken down and flattened for simple transportation.

You should prepare cardboard recycling by removing any staples, packaging bubbles, plastic wrap/tape and other packaging materials. Staples can damage recycling machines, and boxes with remaining staples will most likely be discarded in the trash. Tape and plastic wrap are often removed on-site, but be sure to check your local town’s regulations, as recorded by your county clerk officials.

Materials like pizza boxes tarnished with grease and food are not recyclable, along with cardboard containers coated with wax. For example, certain juice containers, milk cartons and produce boxes are wax-coated to give them more strength. Cardboard materials that are wet are still recyclable but are more difficult to process and harder to transport.

Recycled cardboard requires only 75% of the energy used to create new cardboard and lessens the emission of sulfur dioxide produced when making pulp from trees. Recycling 1 ton of cardboard can save 46 gallons of oil.


How to Recycle Concrete in NJ

Concrete may be overlooked as a recyclable substance, but concrete from stairs, sidewalks, buildings and driveways are acceptable materials to recycle in NJ. Recycling concrete can reduce construction costs while benefiting the environment and lowering your carbon footprint.

According to the Construction Materials Recycling Association, the United States recycles about 140 million tons of concrete each year. Because concrete is a non-biodegradable substance, recycling concrete redirects it away from landfills. It can be processed into raw material for other construction projects by breaking, removing and crushing concrete from an existing substance and reusing it as an aggregate.

Studies show that including some form of recycled concrete aggregate in new concrete products can improve its performance. According to the Construction and Demolition Recycling Association, recycled concrete weighs 10-15% less than virgin products and performs better in concrete and asphalt materials. With its lighter weight, it results in lower material costs, transportation costs and project costs. Recycled concrete aggregate meets state and federal specifications because of its high quality.

If you’re involved in a large construction project, recycling concrete will save you time and money. Concrete can be broken up on-site, collected by a reputable recycling company or used for other projects around your home such as stepping stones and retaining walls. Finding a reputable recycling company is an important process when recycling concrete. The company should promote awareness about concrete recycling, ensure its positive environmental impact and have its customers’ best interests at hand.

How to Recycle Batteries in NJ

Although we’d like to think batteries can continuously recharge, they don’t last forever. Typically, a rechargeable battery will recharge about 100 times before it needs to be replaced, and at that time you can easily recycle it. Rechargeable batteries found in cell phones, laptops, cameras and cordless power tools are recyclable. Most button-cell batteries are also recyclable.

The New Jersey Dry Cell Battery Management Act of 1991 and the Federal Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 concluded that household battery manufacturers can manufacture alkaline batteries with no added mercury. According to the program overviews, because of the reduced amount of mercury added to alkaline batteries, they now fall below Federal and State hazardous waste standards and you can dispose of them in the regular trash.

Typically, you can’t recycle single-use batteries like AA, AAA, C or D. Batteries found in hearing aids and watches can be recycled.

Types of rechargeable batteries that can be recycled include:

  • Nickel Zinc
  • Nickel Metal Hydride
  • Nickel Cadmium
  • Lithium Ion
  • Small sealed lead less than 11 lbs

Prior to recycling, you should prepare batteries by placing them in individual bags or taping each terminal end. Rechargeable batteries can be taken to local retail locations or you can find a drop-off site within your county. Recycling involves breaking down batteries and recovering the material inside for reuse. In the case where batteries cannot be recycled, they’re disposed of in a way where the toxic chemicals cannot reach the environment.

Batteries contain toxic chemicals such as acid, lead, mercury, alkaline, cadmium and nickel metal hydride. When batteries aren’t properly recycled, the casing can disintegrate and release chemicals into its surrounding environment. If the toxins are released into a landfill, the soil and water can be contaminated and possibly transfer those toxins to wildlife and humans. Batteries should never be placed in the general trash unless they’re alkaline-approved.

How to Recycle Tires in NJ

More than half of U.S. states don’t allow tires to be dropped off in landfills. In the state of New Jersey, you can recycle your car and truck tires at any local municipal recycling location or a tire recycling business. If you purchase a new set of tires, most tire dealers will offer to recycle your old pair. At local recycling centers and scrap tire facilities, each requires tipping fees — you can find tire recycling information specific to your county on its website.

Tires in landfills take up a tremendous amount of space, considering 75% of their space is void. Piled up in landfills, tires also attract rodents, and leftover water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos. Tires can trap methane gas which can leak through landfill liners, polluting nearby soil and water sources. Because tires break down slowly, it can take between 50 and 80 years or more for one tire to deteriorate.


According to the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, about 8.4 million scrap tires are generated each year. Scrap truck tires are usually retreated and reused on trucks and buses. Automobile tires can be restructured or recycled into truck bed mats, dock and boat bumpers, safety flooring, mud flaps, farm equipment, garbage/recycling containers and tire swings. Recycled car tires can also be used in the construction of road resurfacing, kids’ playgrounds, synthetic turf and river bank stabilizers.

In some cases, recycled tires can be used for tire-derived fuel. It’s a highly effective alternative to fossil fuel, producing higher amounts of energy compared to oil or coal energy sources.

The process of recycling tires begins with removing metal and other debris. Ground-up rubber pieces are then heated with softening agents to make them pliable. Once the pieces are cooled and painted, they pass under a magnet to remove any remaining metal. The rubber is finally packed up and shipped back out to the marketplace for reuse.

How to Recycle Organic Material in New Jersey

Organic waste is material such as food, garden and lawn clippings, including animal and plant-based materials. This organic matter can break down naturally with exposure to heat, oxygen and microorganisms in the surrounding soil. Composting involves speeding up the natural process of decomposition and returning organic material to the soil. Mature compost is a stable material that is dark brown or black. It’s more nutrient-rich than regular soil and reduces the emission of methane gas.

Instead of throwing nutrient-rich resources in the trash, you can create compost and turn it into soil. The soil can be used in your garden, landscaping or potting plants. The compostable organic material also eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers and helps to retain the water content in your yard.

If it’s not convenient to compost your own organic waste at home, recycling centers throughout New Jersey allow residents to drop off garden waste, woodchips, brush, leaves and other organic materials to be properly decomposed. Composting in large facilities can capture 99.6% of industrial volatile organic chemicals in contaminated air.


Acceptable items for organic recycling include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats, poultry and seafood
  • Bakery items
  • Plants
  • Coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
  • Paper products
  • Ice cream, yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Leaf and yard waste

When organic waste is dumped into a landfill, there’s a lack of oxygen in the decomposition process. This organic waste then undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which generates methane and releases it into the air — to make matters worse, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

How to Recycle Scrap Metal and White Goods in NJ

Scrap metal includes materials such as iron, copper, steel, aluminum, brass and wire. Many drop-off recycling centers in New Jersey will pay you to recycle scrap metal. It’s best to become familiar with common scrap metals to determine which ones can result in the highest value for recycling.

Because scrap metal exports are one of the largest in the U.S., recycling the metal can reduce the overall amount of ore drilling. Recovered materials from scrap metal are melted in a furnace to result in high-quality material. The raw material is poured into casters and is used to manufacture new products.

White goods are large electronic materials such as refrigerators, washing machines stoves and other major home appliances. Similar to the recycling process for tires, when you purchase new home appliances, companies will often offer to recycle your old ones.

White goods contain large amounts of metal, plastic, insulating material and other valuable materials. Recycling household appliances helps prevent toxic materials from entering the environment like flame retardants. If your white goods are still in working condition, they can be refurbished for reuse. Recycled white goods are stripped of gases and chemicals, while steel, plastics and copper are recovered before being shredded for recycling.

Acceptable white goods to recycle include:

  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Microwaves
  • Heaters
  • Ovens
  • Air conditioning units
  • Dishwashers

New Jersey residents have recycled more than 65,000 white good units — enough power to generate 4550 homes for a year. Recycling 20,000 old refrigerators results in the equivalent of removing 40,000 cars from the road for one year.

FAQs About NJ Recycling

Learn more about recycling guidelines by reading these common questions and answers:

  • Is it mandatory for schools and businesses in New Jersey to recycle? Yes, recycling is required in institutional sectors such as schools, hospitals and prisons. Residential and commercial sectors must also recycle.
  • Why do municipal and county recycling programs look different throughout New Jersey? The New Jersey Statewide Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act mandated individual New Jersey counties to create their own plans. Differences such as their closeness to recycling facilities and whether the county uses single- or dual-stream collection systems make each program unique.
  • What do single-stream and dual-stream mean? Single-stream recycling involves collecting cans, bottles, other containers and paper grades in one recycling bucket. Dual-stream programs involve separating the cans, bottles and other containers in a different recycling bucket than the paper grades.
  • What do the numbers on the bottom of plastic products mean? The numbers on the bottom of plastic containers s are used to identify different types of containers and products. The number one represents soda and water bottles, and the number four designates squeezable bottles and frozen food bags. Check your county’s guidelines to determine which plastics you can recycle.
  • Should bottle caps be removed or left on for recycling? Advanced technology has improved recycling collection and processing. The growing demand for high-density polyethylene has encouraged consumers to recycle their caps. Whether you should remove bottle caps depends on your local program’s guidelines.
  • Should I put grocery bags in my recycling bucket? No, do not put plastic shopping bags in your recycling bucket because the bags can jam processing machines at recycling facilities. Instead, consider recycling your plastic bags separately in established programs offered by your local grocery stores.
  • Should I put shredded paper in my recycling bucket? No, you shouldn’t put shredded papers in your recycling bucket because an inability to effectively sort the shredded paper can contaminate other processed materials at a facility. It’s best to keep shredded papers in separate bags and check your local guidelines for details about collecting paper.
  • If I’m not sure if an item is recyclable — should I put it in my recycling container? Avoid placing items into a recycling bucket unless you’re 100% certain they are recyclable to avoid contaminating other materials or affecting quality control at facilities. If you’re unsure whether you can recycle an item, check your county website to see a list of guidelines you should follow.

How to Begin Recycling in NJ

At Hometown Waste and Recycling, Inc., we provide dumpsters to recycle cardboard, concrete, organic materials, scrap metal and white goods. We’re dedicated to providing new and clean dumpsters to your property for jobs of all sizes. Whether you’re working on property cleanups or home renovations, we offer hauling for rubbish, asphalt, trees, dirt and many more materials.

If you’re moving or simply have an abundance of corrugated cardboard, we’ll take it off your hands. To recycle concrete, we’ll place it in our dumpsters for safe removal, along with large white goods and scrap metals. If you don’t live in an ideal location to compost organic material, we also recycle leaves, brush, trees, dirt, etc.

Our dumpsters range from 10 to 40 yards, and we provide wood for under dumpsters to prevent damage to any driveways. At Hometown Waste and Recycling, we pride ourselves in practicing customer service above the industry standard, while providing dumpsters at a competitive rate.

Home projects we can help you with include:

Contact us for estimates on recyclable material removal in New Jersey.

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