NJ bill would delay recycling requirement

March 29, 2009 6:52:46 AM PDT
New Jersey's local governments are supposed to have certified recycling managers in place by next January, but that deadline may be extended by two years. A pair of lawmakers from northwest New Jersey - Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Washington, and Sen. Marcia Karrow, R-Flemington - are the lead sponsors of a bill seeking the delay.

They've said their district has many small municipalities with only a few employees, and some of those officials work as recycling coordinators in addition to their other duties. Other coordinators volunteer their time or earn a small stipend for their work.

The certification process takes up to three weeks, and according to a survey by Doherty's office, six of the 46 coordinators in his district have either resigned or plan to quit their recycling posts, often because they don't have time to get certified.

"The certification's complete overkill. It's complete overkill for small towns," Karrow said.

The Assembly approved the extension 75-1 in February, and it was unanimously approved by a Senate committee March 9. The measure is now waiting to be heard by the full Senate, but that won't be anytime soon because state lawmakers are focusing on Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposed spending plan for the budget year starting July 1.

New Jersey has long required its local governments to have recycling coordinators, who oversee the collection and disposal of everything from asphalt to antifreeze. But they did not have to be certified until a new law - the Recycling Enhancement Act - was enacted last January, establishing next year's deadline.

Untrained recycling personnel can get certified by completing a 21-day course at Rutgers University Office of Continuing Professional Education, where they learn collection techniques and recycling laws, among other things. Officials with prior experience can take a four-day crash course.

Marie Kruzan, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, described the proposed two-year extension as a "political request from a county that is far behind."

She pointed out that the sponsors represent most of Hunterdon County, which recycled 35 percent of its waste in 2006, the most recent year state data is available. Its rate was the worst of any county in the state that year.

Recycling coordinators in Hunterdon were the most concerned about next year's deadline, said Kruzan, who attributed their low recycling rates to a lack of effort.

Karrow said the original request for the legislation came from a recycling coordinator in Warren County who earns a small stipend.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Turnersville, cast the lone dissenting vote against the extension. He said local governments have "ample time" to meet next January's deadline.

"If you can get a bachelor's degree in four years, why can't you get a certificate in two years?" he said.

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