Years ago, when recycling began in Glen Rock, residents separated their cans, different color glass bottles, plastic containers, newspapers and other paper, and DPW came by and dumped each item into different compartments on the truck. The Borough provided color coded pails to residents for this purpose. This is known as a "curbside sort recycling system."

As sorting technology at materials recovery facilities improved, Glen Rock switched to "dual stream recycling," where residents put all of their containers into one bin and all of their papers into another. It was a much more cost effective recycling system for the Borough. In 2011, the Borough started to collect cardboard separately due to the high revenue earned from this material. The Borough generates approximately $150,000 in funds each year from recycling.

There is a third type of recycling system – "single stream recycling," which reduces the sorting efforts by residents. While this system may take in greater volumes of materials, the Borough has not adopted it because it actually sends a smaller volume of it out for recycling, and what does get sent out tends to be of lower quality. Glass is the material most affected by the amount of breakage in a single stream program, where it is virtually impossible to prevent glass from breaking as it is dumped in the truck, gets compacted, and processed. It is estimated that 40 percent of glass from this collection system winds up in landfills. In contrast, dual stream systems have an average yield of 90 percent recycled into containers and fiberglass.

The key to successful recycling is to keep the material circulating for as many product lives as possible. Recycling glass bottles back into bottles over and over again is by far the best use of secondary glass, just as it is for aluminum cans. Down cycled glass bottles can be ground into drainage or road material, but that's the end of the life cycle for that product.

What is most important about recycling is how little waste there is at the end of the system. The best way to preserve the quality of the materials as we collect them is through greater separation at the source. It does not mean that residents have to separate them into 30 different categories, but mingling them all together has many disadvantages. The use of Glen Rock's recycling center is a great way to keep material circulating for as many "product lives" as possible. The second best way is through Glen Rock's dual stream curbside pick up system, which has proven to be a very cost effective way to handle this important function.

From the standpoint of our vendors, one of the greatest "contaminants" in the recycling process is plastic bags, which are used to hold recyclables (newspapers, junk mail, glass and plastic containers). DPW has been notified by our vendors that they will no longer accept plastic bags in our recyclables. If recyclables are put in plastic bags, that entire bag will be separated out as trash and the Borough will be charged for it, rather than receive recycling fees. More concerning, is that these materials will be tossed into landfills, rather than recycled.

We are communicating with residents to provide them adequate notice to make the necessary changes to their recycling practices. The recycling center is already enforcing the removal of plastic bags from recyclables, and starting May 1, DPW sanitation trucks will not pick up recyclables placed curbside that are held in plastic bags. We are hoping that residents will understand the necessity of enforcing this requirement due to stricter requirements from our vendors and will work with us to ensure better recycling practices and keeping waste disposal costs to a minimum.