NJ Clerk-Treasurer Discusses Contaminated Recyclables and the Threat they Pose

In a meeting between North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe and Republic Services Municipal Account Executive Pete Callan, the two discussed a recent change to recycling procedures that is having a major impact locally and across the country. Rowe told town council members last Monday that Republic Services, as well as many trash collection agencies, have been exporting much of their recyclable material to China for years.

However, he said China recently shifted the amount of contaminated material they’ll accept from 3 percent to .5 percent and it’s resulted in a lot of the material being returned to the States with no place to go.

Rowe explained, “Even a little bit of something organic or any food in with something you recycle can contaminate everything,” he went elaborated, “and that means a block of something that they’ve compressed and sent over immediately gets rejected and sent back.”

Rowe noted that if nothing is done to cut down on the contamination of recyclables, Republic Services could have to discontinue the program locally due to the loss in revenue.


He mentioned that Callan plans to appear before the council in a future meeting to go over ways that officials and residents can work together to improve recycling practices.

Some ways that residents can actively help cut down on contamination is by rinsing and drying cans, bottles and other items thoroughly before placing them in recycling bins. Always be sure that containers are completely empty before recycling them.

It also helps to separate recyclable items by material to help cut down on cross contamination. For instance, collect paper, plastic, aluminum and glass products separately in paper bags and then place each the individual assortment of items in your bin.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize what is and what isn’t recyclable. Certain items such as milk cartons, Styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic bags and greasy pizza boxes should never be placed in recycling. For more information about specific rules that Republic Services has, check out their Recycling Guide.