Starting next week, recyclables put out at the curb in plastic bags won’t be picked up in a number of Monmouth County towns. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Monmouth County municipalities are rushing this week to implement new rules to prohibit the use of plastic bags to hold domestic recyclables for pickup.

The change is being driven by China, Red Bank Business Administrator Ziad Shehady tells redbankgreen.

Long an importer recyclable waste from the United States and other countries, China is curbing its appetite for the world’s recyclables, citing the presence of contaminants such as food waste in the material, Shehady said Thursday.

China has also “determined that a huge volume of the plastics are mainly single-use items, such as garbage bags, bubble wrap, bottles and small packages, that are low in quality and value when recycled,” according to a report by the Washington Post.

Last November, China announced plans to stop importing contaminated plastics, including water bottles and plastic straws, starting January 1, 2019.

But low-contaminant plastics will still be accepted, according to Wired magazine. That puts pressure on regional materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in the United States, which rely heavily on hand-sorting, to know what’s in bags, Shehady said. And since the bags themselves clog recycling machinery, the MRFs are beginning to prohibit plastic-bagged recyclables, he said.

The MRFs “started out by saying, ‘you have to put it in clear plastic bags,'” so sorters could see what was inside, Shehady said. “Now, they’re moving to a policy of no plastic bags,” he said.

That’s impacting local trash haulers who dispose of their loads at the MRFs, Shehady said. They now face fines if their loads contain bagged recyclables, he said.

Following a meeting Tuesday of area public works administrators and other officials with Monmouth County recycling officials, a number of towns, including Red Bank and Rumson, have begun telling their residents not to bag recyclables, starting next week. Both towns contract their trash and recycling services to private haulers.

Red Bank announced the change on the borough website Wednesday, saying its contractor, Delisa Demolition of Tinton Falls, “is no longer permitted to collect recycling materials in plastic bags of any kind. Loose, unbagged recyclables may be placed curbside in garbage cans but will not be picked up if they are placed in any plastic bags.”

Rumson, meantime, tweeted and posted on its website that recyclables had to be either loose or put in clear plastic bags. But public works Superintendent Mark Wellner told redbankgreen via email Thursday that Rumson will have “a no-bag policy moving forward,” which it will announce to residents various ways, including by a mailing.

A Monmouth County spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions sent by redbankgreen. Here’s the county’s latest recycling guide, which makes no mention of the bagging recyclables. The document tells residents not to recycle single-use plastic bags, and to instead return them to the stores they came from, if possible.

Red Bank residents can obtain free yellow recycling bins at the public works yard, located at 75 Chestnut Street. Recyclables may also be dropped off at the borough recycling center, located at the westerly end of West Sunset Avenue. More information about recycling in the borough is available here.