By Anya Bochman
The township of Millburn is changing its approach to recycling plastic bags – and the reason for the recent upheaval of the old system has to do with Chinese contamination rate standards.
Millburn Administrative Analyst Jesse Moehlman explained that the United States sends a certain amount of its recycled waste for processing to the People’s Republic of China.
“The United States, until recently, sent roughly 30 percent of its recycling exports to the Chinese market,” Moehlman stated. “Due to rising contamination rates, China instituted a contamination rate of 0.5 percent for accepted materials. In the short term this has led to higher costs for processing recyclables, leading to a renewed effort towards a cleaner recycling stream for which a market can be
As per the new guidelines, Giordano Co., the township’s solid waste and recycling hauler will no longer accept plastic bags in its curbside recycling collection efforts.
Millburn officials issued an advisory about the vendors’ new policy on Monday, June 11.
Per the township’s official website, “All recyclables in plastic bags will be left at the curb. If a collection is left curbside it is the owner’s responsibility to move items into a container specifically labeled for recycling.”
The change, which was implemented roughly a month ago, is taking time to fully go into effect.
“Since the hauler stopped bringing in contaminated loads, a good number of people still have recyclables left at the curb,” Moehlman stated. “It won’t be picked up. Residents need to use the reusable container clearly marked for recycling.”
The administrator added that efforts to spread news of the new recycling system have relied on social media and newsletters.
Additionally, township officials explained the problem of single-use plastic bags in a statement on the municipal website. According to the posting, single-use plastic bags are not recyclable in a single-stream facility. They can jam the equipment, and “many facilities spend one to two hours per day removing plastic bags from the machinery. Plastic bags are one of the largest sources of contamination at
The posting continued to state that waste management that processes a township’s recyclables “diverts the bags and their contents to a landfill and can assess a $175 per ton fee on loads containing excess contamination.” As a solution, the website urged residents to recycle plastic bags at the local supermarket or disposing of them in the trash.
The posting provided a comprehensive PDF link, showing acceptable recyclables. Among these are aluminum and steel cans, food and beverage cartons, bottles and jars, mixed paper and flattened cardboard and plastic kitchen containers.
Town officials urge residents to follow these guidelines in accordance with Millburn’s Single Stream recycling program. In order for the system to work, items placed at the curb must be clean and dry, and secured in clearly marked recycling bins. Ideally, Single Stream recycling allows for the collection of all recyclable materials on the same day, in the same container.
The Millburn municipal website provides graphics supporting the ban on plastic bags.
For more information regarding Millburn’s Single Stream recycling program or its new policy banning plastic bags, visit the municipal website at