Businesses and residents of Secaucus are correctly recycling the most tons of items compared to other Hudson County towns, according to Secaucus Recycling Coordinator Steve Badalamenti. Secaucus annually applies for a yearly Department of Environmental Protection grant which calculates the percentage of total tonnage of items recycled properly. When items are recycled properly, and the recycling rate is high, the town receives a higher grant amount.
For 2014, Secaucus scored 89 percent.
The grant dollar amount has not been received for the most recent report for 2014, Badalamenti said.
“Residents recycle paper in one can, and bottles, cans, and plastic in a another, this is called source separation.” – Steve Badalamenti.
“Residents recycle paper in one can, and bottles, cans, and plastic in another, and this is called source separation, which means they organize and separate everything at home,” Badalamenti said. Source separation is one reason for the high tonnage percentage. A single stream system is when all recyclables are put in the same bin.
“I’m not an advocate for the single stream system, because paper gets contaminated. Once it’s soiled it’s not recyclable anymore,” Badalamenti said.
Since Badalamenti took the recycling coordinator position in 2011, he improved the tonnage amount from 64 percent in 2010 to 73 percent in 2011. Recycling rates in other Hudson County towns are relatively low, with North Bergen second highest with 50 percent. Bayonne is at 26 percent, Hoboken is at 22 percent, Jersey City is at 11 percent, Weehawken is at 38 percent, and West New York is at 16 percent.
According to Badalamenti, the state would like for all towns to have at least 60 percent recycled with no more than 40 percent going into landfills.
“Towns could be fined for dumping recyclables in a landfill, because it’s against the law,” Badalamenti said.
What else helps?
Other than gathering tonnage reports from businesses and having residents follow a source separation system, Badalamenti said he owes a lot of thanks to Secaucus Sanitary Inspector Ed Ferguson. “He’s my eyes on the street.” Badalamenti said Ferguson follows recycle and garbage trucks daily to help keep track of proper recyclables.
Residents receive monthly calendars with the proper recycling days for paper and other items. Badalamenti also created a graphic pamphlet with pictures of what can be recycled, the time recyclables are collected, and proper disposal of bigger items like refrigerators. Each calendar and pamphlet has the number for the Department of Public Works for questions or to request a pick-up.
Badalamenti also said improved mechanics in state recycling facilities have helped sort recyclables better.
“Years ago, machines couldn’t separate cans, or different types of paper,” Badalamenti said. Digital optical sorters use a photo eye that can be set to separate different colors of paper, or different styles of paper like thick photo paper.
It’s possible to have a zero-waste system for the town, Badalamenti said. This involves another receptacle for some garbage materials to be composted, but the town would first need to find a facility that will take all the compost.
“We would probably start this at places that waste a lot of food, like schools,” Badalamenti said.
Badalamenti is retiring this January, but he’s currently mentoring his replacement Environmental Coordinator, Amanda Nesheiwat.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Nesheiwat said.