WOODBINE — Starting Monday, Cape May County residents can put all their recyclables in a single container.
Called “single-stream recycling,” the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority likes to refer to it simply as “SS.” For years, county residents and summer visitors had to sort their recyclables and put them separately out on the curb.
Starting Monday, April 1, recyclables can all go in one container, and the list of items that can be recycled is much larger. This type of recycling increases recycling rates, which in turn brings larger rebates for selling the materials and reduces landfill tipping fees, since less solid waste is going in the ground.
The new $4 million recycling facility at the MUA’s Intermediate Processing Facility was tested Thursday for the first time in anticipation of Monday’s first deliveries of single-stream recyclables.
“The whole plant has run but it hasn’t run with any material. Material will go in tomorrow to see what is working and what isn’t working,” MUA Deputy Director John Baron said on Wednesday.
Ocean County switched to single-stream in 2010 and recycling rates jumped by 24 percent. Studies show between
7 percent and 10 percent of the people who never recycle start doing it with single-stream. Atlantic County switched in 2009.
“Typically you see a 20 (percent) to 30 percent increase,” Baron said.
That brings several benefits. In 2012, the county recycled 24,600 tons of material. Each ton recycled is one that does not go in the landfill at a cost of $67.25 per ton. Recycling was already saving $1.6 million in tipping fees before single-stream recycling.
A second benefit is rebates for selling the material. Some goes to the private company running the facility but the county’s 16 municipalities are expected to get a percentage.
“In 2011, we rebated $1.2 million back to the communities in Cape May County from the sale of recyclables. In 2012, the markets were softer, the paper markets were down, and it was only $350,000,” said Lynn Crumbock, the MUA’s recycling coordinator.
The market for glass, metals, plastics and paper are somewhat volatile but that money is just a bonus. The real reward is reducing landfill tipping fees, according to Cape May Point Administrator Connie Mahon“Single-stream will save us a lot of money because we won’t have as much trash going to the landfill. We expect tipping fee savings next year,” Mahon said.
The new method could also reduce the cost to collect recyclables, something for which many towns contract. Baron said Ocean City bid collection of recyclables sorted separately, and it came in at $594,000. The bid for single-stream was just $387,000.
“It was 37 percent less for single stream. That’s fantastic news because that was the first one. Hopefully the rest of Cape May County will see a reduction as well,” Baron said.
The recycling machinery includes conveyor belts, blowers, rotating screens, magnets, hoppers, optical sensors and other equipment controlled by computers to separate the different materials. Human labor is also involved at several sorting stations, partly to catch items the machine misses.
“You’re always picking out residue that shouldn’t make it through the system, but it did,” Baron said.
Most items then go to the baling room. Glass is one exception. The baler turns cans, plastic, cardboard and other items into large rectangles ready for shipping to market.
The workers have been going over operational and safety procedures to get ready for Monday.
“By Monday, we’ll be at full bore,” Baron said.
Contact Richard Degener: