TRENTON – The Senate Environment Committee hosted a vigorous debate today at their meeting to receive testimony on a set of three bills sponsored by Senator Bob Smith that would strengthen recycling in New Jersey
“We need to take action quickly to better promote recycling in New Jersey so that we can slow down the rate at which our landfills are used,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset. “By increasing the rate of recycling across the state, not only do we reduce the amount of natural resources consumed through manufacturing, but we also reduce the amount of hazardous and non-biodegradable materials entering our landfills.”
The first bill that the committee discussed today was S-1861, which would require every producer of electronic equipment sold in New Jersey to prepare and submit an electronic waste management plan to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the environmentally sound management of discarded electronic equipment. This electronic equipment would include computers, radios and televisions.
“There are many heavy metals and other environmentally harmful chemicals present in computers and other electronic equipment. With the growing amount of electronic products present in every home and office, these hazardous substances have an increasing chance of finding their way into our landfills and eventually into our groundwater and the rest of the environment,” explained Senator Smith. “Those companies which produce these devices are the best qualified to develop the means by which they can properly and safely be disposed.”
The committee also heard testimony on S-2578, “The Preservation of Landfill Space Act,” which would require that every rigid plastic container manufactured or sold in New Jersey or used to contain a product manufactured or sold in New Jersey contain at least 25% recycled material. This requirement would not apply to containers used to package foods and beverages.
“The use of plastics in packaging has dramatically increased in the recent past,” said Senator Smith. “If the State doesn’t begin to require these packages to contain post-consumer recycled material, our landfills will continue to fill at an unacceptable rate. We need to make every effort possible to make sure that non-biodegrable, recyclable materials avoid finding a home for decades in our landfills.”
The final bill discussed in today’s committee hearing was S-2615, which would impose a $3 per ton assessment on solid waste to provide financial support to municipal and county recycling programs. The fee would be levied on those who create the waste and would be collected by solid waste collectors. It is expected to raise an additional $34 million annually.
Senator Smith added, “The benefits of this fee are two-fold. First, it encourages the business community to seek out practices that will reduce the amount of solid waste heading into our landfills. Second, it provides local and county governments with much needed assistance in running recycling programs for their residents. As municipalities look to keep their budgets lean, these funds could provide the leeway to maintain an effective recycling program.”
Senator Smith also noted that these bills would be heard again once the committee reconvenes in the fall. He anticipates that they will move quickly through the Legislature when it goes back into session.