Garbage in, garbage out What your trash turns into, and how to improve the situation

Where does garbage go? Some of it is shipped out of state, some is recycled, and some has been simmering for years in older landfills in the Meadowlands – but the gas given off ends up recycled and comes into your homes.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission staff says that there are ways people can reduce the amount and toxicity of their trash, to further help the environment.
The district may not be the toxic wasteland it once was, but there is still a universe of garbage out there. Several times a week, cities and private contractors pick up trash and recyclables from their residents and bring them to places like the Meadowlands’ one remaining active landfill.There used to be a few thousand acres of landfills in the Meadowlands, but the number was drastically reduced since the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission came on board to control dumping in 1969. Tom Maturano, the director of solid waste and natural resources at the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in Lyndhurst, says people don’t think enough about trash. “Once it’s no longer in your house, it’s not your problem, since the responsibility shifts to somebody else,” Maturano said. “There are many industrial and support systems to deal with the stuff you throw away.” Even though the organization has been instrumental in curtailing unregulated and unsanitary dumping, Marturano said there are additional things residents can do to contribute to a better environment. “There’s a whole world of garbage out there,” said Marturano. “Besides recycling as each town dictates, residents can think about the products they buy.”

Where does it go?

“People don’t often consider the types of garbage that gets thrown away and what it takes to dispose of them properly,” Marturano said. “You trade in your old tires for new; you drive your car into the ground and then buy a new one – what do we do with all that?”

The answer? “There are so many different places where garbage goes.”

There are landfills, resource recovery plants, transfer stations and recycling faculties of all genres, with subgroups in each of them. Transfer stations collect garbage that is going out of state.

“The smaller local trucks bring the garbage to a transfer station, where it is collected and put into much larger trucks to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia,” he said.

Landfills accept demolition, commercial, industrial, and domestic wastes. Back in the late 1960s, there were 2,508 acres in the Meadowlands District that were landfills or slated for landfills.

Now, there is only one remaining active landfill now operated by the commission in the district. Some remaining landfills are inactive and others were remediated with environmental controls.

And the inactive landfills actually have a use. They give off liquid and gas that is recycled.

The commission collects the liquid and gas emissions such as methane – the major component of natural gas. Some of that methane recovered by NJMC goes to Public Service Electric & Gas and then gets distributed to many district households. The rest is used to generate electricity.

“Methane comes from microscopic organisms that eat what you don’t eat,” said Marturano. “They digest the garbage and breathe out methane.”

Source reduction

There are a few changes in thinking about garbage that can bring down costs and environmental impact. Three main concepts belong to this group; reuse, reduce and recycle.

Source reduction, or waste prevention, is about using and throwing away fewer household products.

“A good example is buying concentrates – like detergents or juices. You stop buying the water in it and the larger container,” said Marturano. After you buy a can or small bottle of juice concentrate, you could then add the water.

Reusing products can be better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

Residents can refill water bottles, re-use boxes or buy refillable items like refillable pens and mechanical pencils.

Recycling in Secaucus

Recycling turns waste materials into valuable resources. Materials like glass, metal, plastics, and paper are collected, separated, and sent to facilities that can process them into aluminum cans, newspapers, paper towels and such.

The Town of Secaucus has a recycling system implemented the Department of Public Works. DPW Superintendent and Recycling Coordinator Mike Gonnelli said that Secaucus residents are good about recycling their garbage.

“Residents have a 90 percent compliance rate with the state mandatory recycling regulation,” Gonnelli said. For residential collection, there are 10 different kinds of specific pickups throughout the year from bulk rubbish to used motor oil. Commercial pickups include waste paper and corrugated cardboard.

The town also receives money from some of the recyclables they return to Municipal Recycling Facilities. Last year, town coffers received $8,400 for the recycling of 567 tons of paper.

For more information see the EPA website: . You can also call for recycling information in Secaucus at (201) 330-2080.


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