Cape May residents will soon be able to put all of their curbside recycling in a single container and will have more items to recycle under a new ordinance City Council has adopted.

The city has become the first of Cape May County’s 16 towns to pass sweeping changes to its recycling rules as a precursor to the entire county going to what is known as single-stream recycling early next year.

“We expect it to increase the recycling rate for the city of Cape May because you have to be discerning now. This will mean less decision-making and sorting for the homeowner,” Mayor Ed Mahaney said.

John Baron, deputy director of the Cape May County Municipalities Authority, said all 16 municipalities have agreed to go to single-stream recycling, but Cape May is the first to formally adopt the changes. The city’s ordinance, adopted by council in September, becomes law next week, but most of the changes will have to wait several months for a $4 million retrofit at the county MUA recycling facility in Woodbine to be completed. Baron said he expects it to go online April 1.

Residents currently have to separate different recyclables, and many items are not taken. For example, Mahaney said, only plastics marked on the bottom with the numbers 1 through 4 are accepted, but under single-stream recycling, plastics marked 1-7 will be accepted.

Baron said national figures show going to a single-stream program increases the recycling rate by 22 percent, with another 6 percent boost if the towns offer larger containers to hold the materials. The county is hoping to reach the state’s goal of a 50 percent recycling rate for municipal waste.

“We’re now at a 42.5 percent rate. We hope to hit the state’s 50 percent goal,” Baron said.

The city is going beyond what the county program requires by adding recycling of construction and demolition debris. Baron said this is not part of the county’s new program.

Cape May’s new ordinance requires those doing construction, demolition or hosting public events to file a recycling plan for any debris generated. Permits for the work will not be granted until the plan is filed. At the conclusion of the project, there must be documentation on what was recycled.

“If a final report of what occurred is not filed, a CO (certificate of occupancy) will not be issued,” Mahaney said.

The ordinance has the municipal recycling coordinator review the plans, while enforcement will be done by the coordinator, code enforcement, the police and the county health department.

The city is hoping a higher recycling rate pays dividends. Recyclables are sold by the county, and municipalities get annual checks.

“We received $64,000 last year, and we expect it to go higher,” Mahaney said.

Baron said a secondary benefit of a higher recycling rate is that it reduces trash going to the county’s landfill. This saves landfill space and also saves money, since the county charges $65.95 for each ton disposed there.

Baron said each municipality in the county must adopt an ordinance before April 1 to go to single-stream recycling. Cape May’s new 13-page ordinance gives specific details about what new items can be placed in the curbside containers, which shall not exceed 32 gallons in size and 50 pounds in weight. Mahaney said there are no plans to provide containers to residents, but the city plans to provide decals to put on them.

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