The heads of New Jersey’s $6 billion recycling industry are pressing state officials for help after the trade war with China disrupted long-established merchant networks and forced businesses to look elsewhere to send refuse.
For decades, China had been the largest consumer of recycling material originating from New Jersey and much of the country. But in 2017, the country sharply cut down on how much recycling material it would accept, according to Debbie Mans, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“By the end of 2018, China took in less than 1 percent of its 2016 total” intake, Mans said Thursday. “Overnight, communities across the United States found themselves without a market for recycling materials.”
“The price of recycling has become more and more expensive, and in some cases more than trash, and when it’s more than trash you throw it in the trash,” New Jersey Food Council member Rocco D’Antonio said at the hearing.
One idea presented at an Assembly and Senate joint environment committee hearing Aug. 15 in Toms River: Establishing tax credit programs to assist trash and recycling industry start-ups and different government incentives to help businesses defray ever-increasing costs.
The price of recycling has become more and more expensive, and in some cases more than trash, and when it’s more than trash you throw it in the trash.
– Rocco D’Antonio, member, New Jersey Food Council
The state’s Economic Development Authority currently has no such incentives, but it jointly runs several other programs with the DEP to incentivize companies to clean up polluted and abandoned properties so land can be put back on the market.
Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, was largely on board with the incentive proposal.
“You get a double” benefit, Smith told reporters following the meeting. “Number one is you’re bringing new industry and new employment. But also you’re helping to solve a real problem… we don’t have, right now, the market for recycling materials.”
Gary Sondermeyer, an executive at the Bayshore Family of Cos., said the incentives need to boost the business capability of the state’s recycling sector so that it could handle the influx of materials that would normally be shipped overseas.
“In terms of incentives, we have to bring more processing capacity back to the state, at least ” said Sondermeyer, who was representing the Association of New Jersey Recyclers. If we can bring back processing capacity we can compete again.”