Decades ago, Ocean County pioneered a new recycling program where city governments received a share of the revenue generated from the recyclable materials they collected – rather than paying a bill to throw away more of trash in the county landfill. The program has remained a success, but in recent years the market for recycled materials has declined, marginalizing payments and generating a cost for the first time. But thanks to a revamped recycling market, the program is getting back on track.
Ocean County officials announced revenue sharing levels for each participating city on Wednesday — the first time revenue sharing has been possible since 2018. The county received about $29 a ton for its recycled materials on the market free.
“We’ve had a tough few years with the program, particularly in 2019 when we broke even and in 2020 when we lost about $2 million,” said Anthony Agliata, county planning director who leads the solid waste management department. “In 2021, we invented it. We financed the losses and did not impose this burden on the municipalities.
This year, the market has improved even further, Agliata said. For years, the bulk of the county’s recycled items went to China, but in 2018 Chinese authorities largely halted the import of recycled products. In the years that followed, Ocean County saw new opportunities arise exporting materials to Malaysia, India and Thailand, but the implementation of single-stream recycling and more technology also made useful materials at home.
“A lot more domestic markets have opened up,” Agliata said. “At one point everything was going to China, and there wasn’t really a quality standard that went with it. Now we present a cleaner product that is much more marketable.
Aluminum, tin and cardboard are the most valuable recycled products.
“Glass is the only one that’s still difficult, and we’re struggling to capitalize on it,” Agliata said, although recycled glass has been mined for use in the traditional landfill as fiber that supports slopes and the vegetation.
While the world has experienced chaotic supply chain issues and repercussions on international trade and logistics, the recycling market seems to be getting back on track, albeit in a different form.
“The lesson here is that the more a city can recycle, the more money goes into the city and less waste goes to landfill,” Agliata said.
Total recycling revenue was $1,933,664 for the first six months of 2022, Commissioner Bobbi-Jo Crea said. Recyclables were sold by the county at an average price of $29.47 per ton.
Exactly half of these revenues will be donated to the 33 partner cities of the program.
Individual revenue sharing prices ranged from $193,212 for Lakewood Township to $1,161 for Mantoloking. More than 32,803 tons of materials were recycled countywide from January to June this year, Crea said. Prior to this year, the highest revenue-sharing award was $917,481 returned to cities in 2011, she said. So far, it has already been eclipsed in 2022.
The most important awards are given to:
- Lake wood: 6,555 tons, $193,212.
- Tom River: 4,836 tons, $142,555.
- Brick: 3,616 tons, $106,582.
- Stafford: $2,194 tons, $64,675.
- Berkeley: 2,137 tons, $62,999.