Metuchen officials look to reduce recycling costs

Staff Writer

METUCHEN — Changes to the borough’s recycling program are aimed at keeping costs down for what formerly provided a revenue stream for Metuchen.

“The market has changed in terms of recycling,” Business Administrator Jennifer Maier said at the Feb. 17 council meeting. “Where we used to get $20,000 income, now we will be paying $20,000 a year to have the recycling taken. This is partly because China shut their doors on accepting recycling.”

Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Fred Hall later explained that the borough was once receiving $20 per ton for its single-stream recyclables. That amount, which regularly fluctuates, fell to $10 per ton, and now has changed to the borough having to pay to get rid of the materials.

“By eliminating a couple of things … we can offset that cost,” Hall said. “In the long run, this will save us thousands of dollars.”

Maier said she and other officials have been looking at cutting costs in a variety of ways.

The first, and perhaps the most obvious, measure will be to crack down on out-oftowners bringing their recyclables to the borough’s plant, she said.

Mayor Thomas Vahalla said it was never a problem in the past when nonresidents brought their recycling to town, because the borough was getting paid for it. Going forward, however, anyone dropping off at the center, at 44 Jersey Ave., would have to show a driver’s license or other proof of residency, he said.

“I don’t feel it’s fair to Metuchen residents to take on recycling from other towns and ask Metuchen residents to pay for it,” Vahalla told the Sentinel.

A second measure, which Hall said is slated to begin this week, will have the recycling center’s Saturday hours cut down from five hours to three hours. Vahalla said the five-hour setup requires workers to be paid overtime for being there. Instead of being open 8 a.m.-1 p.m., the center will be open 9 a.m. to noon, Hall said.

“My suggestion was to cut out Saturday completely,” he said.

Hall added that the center’s weekday hours would remain the same, open from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. In addition, he said, for those who can’t make it there during the week or have bulk items, the DPW will set up a special pickup. In addition, the borough will continue to provide weekly recycling pickups for residents.

The only thing that will change with pickups going forward is that grass clippings will no longer be included. Residents will have to mulch or compost their grass clippings, which Maier pointed out is a more environmentally sound solution as well as a cost-saving one.

“That cost to get that grass out of Metuchen to a location is $11,724, and in addition to that, it takes … close to $40,000 in labor for our staff to be out picking up the grass,” she said, adding that many other towns are doing this.

The DPW will still pick up leaves and brush.

Vahalla said borough officials would issue a notice to residents to let them know about the changes.

“Metuchen does an outstanding job with services,” Hall said, adding, “My job is to trim the budget, and that’s what I try to do.”