407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
Change Font Size
Larger
| Smaller
Mayor Colleen Mahr


Even Garbage Can Be a Blessing

Colleen Mahr
Mayor, Fanwood Borough

Photo, recycling bottles in Fanwood
Fanwood's recycling is a "money maker" instead of an expense thanks to a cooperative municipality that's willing to bring material to the Center and the 20 various groups that volunteer.

Fanwood is a unique community. The borough’s population is approximately 7,000 in an area of 1.3 square miles. It is one of the smallest towns in Union County. It has no curbside pick-up of its recyclables, relying 100 percent on its residents to bring their recyclables to our Recycling Center. Amazingly, even without pickup, Fanwood has consistently been among those towns meeting or exceeding the normal percentage of recycled solid waste. As recently spotlighted by the Star-Ledger, nearly 70 percent of what our residents throw out is reused, compared to a statewide recycling rate of just over 30 percent according to the Division of Recycling and Planning. We have been referred to as “second to none” when it comes to recycling and are very proud to have one of the highest recycling rates in New Jersey.

Long in the forefront, and well before recycling legislation existed, Fanwood was the first in Union County to recycle mixed paper and recycle plastic bottles. Now in 2006 we are again acting as a leader by accepting various plastic materials such as plastic bags, plastic chairs and tables, and plastic pails.

Briefly, Fanwood’s history of recycling goes back to about 1984. At that time Governor Florio had just taken office. People talked about saving the environment and recycling, but little action was taken on a local level until Fanwood’s Borough Council applied for and received a grant of $5,000 to establish a recycling center. Fanwood, together with neighboring Scotch Plains, started meetings to determine where, when and how to proceed. There was little or no information available. In 1986 the Recycling Association was incorporated into a 501C (3) and was brought to the attention of some of the local organizations to see if they had any interest and would work at the Center. The lack of enthusiasm was overwhelming.

Many of the organizations such as Boy Scout troops and the High School Marching Band had already been earning funds by holding paper drives and they weren’t anxious to join in an unknown plan. In spite of the weak backing, a plan was drawn. The Center was established at an old Fanwood Department of Public Works (DPW) site and employees of the two towns’ DPW departments built concrete bins for tin and aluminum cans. Arrangements were then made with a paper company to place containers at the Center for old newspaper.

The plans called for the Center to be open one day a week, Saturday, from 9 am to 12 pm and various non-profit local groups would work at the Center and be paid the proceeds from whatever was received for the newspaper that day. As time went on, eligibility for Association membership was expanded to allow members from neighboring towns, more groups joined the Association and more townspeople and neighbors decided to bring their recyclables.

Long lines extended along the road from the entrance to the Center, blocking nearby residents’ driveways. It was apparent that more recycling hours were needed. Accordingly, the Recycling Center was opened every Saturday with hours extended from 9 am to 1 pm, and Wednesday was added. Wednesday would be a “do it yourself” day with no staff on hand to help unload the recyclables. In order that residents could get through the Center rapidly and with little confusion, a Site Manager was employed. Today there are three paid employees of the Association.

When recycling was made mandatory and Union County proposed legislation that called for all municipalities to provide curbside pick-up, Fanwood persuaded officials to let them continue operating. Today we hold the distinction of the only municipality in the county without curbside pickup. In these days of high property taxes, the opportunity to avoid any expenses of a curbside operation is particularly appealing.

See Caption Below
Empty aluminum soda cans are the most valuable item Fanwood collects, at 60 cents a pound. The least valuable is colored glass, which a dealer in PA accepts for free.

Fanwood has been averaging some 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 pounds of recyclable material per year. According to Association President Bob Sommerich, empty aluminum soda cans are the most valuable item they collect at 60 cents a pound. The least valuable is colored glass, which a dealer in PA accepts for free.

In 2005 the Association earned $55,000 from the recyclable material brought to the Center. The local groups that assist on Saturdays each earn $300 for their non-profit, which totaled over $15,000 this year alone going back into our community. Over the last 20 years a total of $225,000 has been donated to these various groups. In addition, the Association also makes donations to worthy causes such the local rescue squad, police, fire department and borough beautification projects.

Recycling as a “money maker,” instead of incurring costs of operating a costly curbside program? Unheard of. But thanks to a cooperative municipality that’s willing to bring material to the Center, and to the 20 various groups that volunteer, the Association is actually making a profit to be distributed back into Fanwood.

In addition, local municipal and county law enforcement agencies have a place to which they could assign low-risk offenders for community service. The Recycling Center has been approved as a community service site, and the assignees now give about 250 man-hours per month. Without this help, our labor costs would be higher. We also conduct tours of the Center for visiting young people and explain the reasons why recycling is so important to our environment. One special project is that we take labels from Campbell Soup cans to give to needy schools. The school gets teaching supplies by returning them in.

Why is it that Fanwood’s residents are so cooperative and willing to accept the task with so little complaint? It may be because the borough has an excellent record of volunteerism, and the residents recognize the Association members are volunteers. It may be that it has its roots in the time when we all were told over and over of the need for recycling in helping save our economy and environment. It may be that bringing material to the Center just has become another habit. It may be that the townsfolk recognize that the earnings go to support our local groups as well as providing tax savings. For whatever reasons, the Recycling Center and the Recycling Association are proven successes and we all are very proud of them.

Special thanks to the President of the Association, Bob Sommerich for his assistance with this article. Bob, who is 90 years old, has helped guide the Center from its inception and he is still going strong!


NJLM - Borough of Fanwood Recycling Success

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
Change Font Size
Larger
| Smaller
Mayor Colleen Mahr


Even Garbage Can Be a Blessing

Colleen Mahr
Mayor, Fanwood Borough

Photo, recycling bottles in Fanwood
Fanwood's recycling is a "money maker" instead of an expense thanks to a cooperative municipality that's willing to bring material to the Center and the 20 various groups that volunteer.

Fanwood is a unique community. The borough’s population is approximately 7,000 in an area of 1.3 square miles. It is one of the smallest towns in Union County. It has no curbside pick-up of its recyclables, relying 100 percent on its residents to bring their recyclables to our Recycling Center. Amazingly, even without pickup, Fanwood has consistently been among those towns meeting or exceeding the normal percentage of recycled solid waste. As recently spotlighted by the Star-Ledger, nearly 70 percent of what our residents throw out is reused, compared to a statewide recycling rate of just over 30 percent according to the Division of Recycling and Planning. We have been referred to as “second to none” when it comes to recycling and are very proud to have one of the highest recycling rates in New Jersey.

Long in the forefront, and well before recycling legislation existed, Fanwood was the first in Union County to recycle mixed paper and recycle plastic bottles. Now in 2006 we are again acting as a leader by accepting various plastic materials such as plastic bags, plastic chairs and tables, and plastic pails.

Briefly, Fanwood’s history of recycling goes back to about 1984. At that time Governor Florio had just taken office. People talked about saving the environment and recycling, but little action was taken on a local level until Fanwood’s Borough Council applied for and received a grant of $5,000 to establish a recycling center. Fanwood, together with neighboring Scotch Plains, started meetings to determine where, when and how to proceed. There was little or no information available. In 1986 the Recycling Association was incorporated into a 501C (3) and was brought to the attention of some of the local organizations to see if they had any interest and would work at the Center. The lack of enthusiasm was overwhelming.

Many of the organizations such as Boy Scout troops and the High School Marching Band had already been earning funds by holding paper drives and they weren’t anxious to join in an unknown plan. In spite of the weak backing, a plan was drawn. The Center was established at an old Fanwood Department of Public Works (DPW) site and employees of the two towns’ DPW departments built concrete bins for tin and aluminum cans. Arrangements were then made with a paper company to place containers at the Center for old newspaper.

The plans called for the Center to be open one day a week, Saturday, from 9 am to 12 pm and various non-profit local groups would work at the Center and be paid the proceeds from whatever was received for the newspaper that day. As time went on, eligibility for Association membership was expanded to allow members from neighboring towns, more groups joined the Association and more townspeople and neighbors decided to bring their recyclables.

Long lines extended along the road from the entrance to the Center, blocking nearby residents’ driveways. It was apparent that more recycling hours were needed. Accordingly, the Recycling Center was opened every Saturday with hours extended from 9 am to 1 pm, and Wednesday was added. Wednesday would be a “do it yourself” day with no staff on hand to help unload the recyclables. In order that residents could get through the Center rapidly and with little confusion, a Site Manager was employed. Today there are three paid employees of the Association.

When recycling was made mandatory and Union County proposed legislation that called for all municipalities to provide curbside pick-up, Fanwood persuaded officials to let them continue operating. Today we hold the distinction of the only municipality in the county without curbside pickup. In these days of high property taxes, the opportunity to avoid any expenses of a curbside operation is particularly appealing.

See Caption Below
Empty aluminum soda cans are the most valuable item Fanwood collects, at 60 cents a pound. The least valuable is colored glass, which a dealer in PA accepts for free.

Fanwood has been averaging some 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 pounds of recyclable material per year. According to Association President Bob Sommerich, empty aluminum soda cans are the most valuable item they collect at 60 cents a pound. The least valuable is colored glass, which a dealer in PA accepts for free.

In 2005 the Association earned $55,000 from the recyclable material brought to the Center. The local groups that assist on Saturdays each earn $300 for their non-profit, which totaled over $15,000 this year alone going back into our community. Over the last 20 years a total of $225,000 has been donated to these various groups. In addition, the Association also makes donations to worthy causes such the local rescue squad, police, fire department and borough beautification projects.

Recycling as a “money maker,” instead of incurring costs of operating a costly curbside program? Unheard of. But thanks to a cooperative municipality that’s willing to bring material to the Center, and to the 20 various groups that volunteer, the Association is actually making a profit to be distributed back into Fanwood.

In addition, local municipal and county law enforcement agencies have a place to which they could assign low-risk offenders for community service. The Recycling Center has been approved as a community service site, and the assignees now give about 250 man-hours per month. Without this help, our labor costs would be higher. We also conduct tours of the Center for visiting young people and explain the reasons why recycling is so important to our environment. One special project is that we take labels from Campbell Soup cans to give to needy schools. The school gets teaching supplies by returning them in.

Why is it that Fanwood’s residents are so cooperative and willing to accept the task with so little complaint? It may be because the borough has an excellent record of volunteerism, and the residents recognize the Association members are volunteers. It may be that it has its roots in the time when we all were told over and over of the need for recycling in helping save our economy and environment. It may be that bringing material to the Center just has become another habit. It may be that the townsfolk recognize that the earnings go to support our local groups as well as providing tax savings. For whatever reasons, the Recycling Center and the Recycling Association are proven successes and we all are very proud of them.

Special thanks to the President of the Association, Bob Sommerich for his assistance with this article. Bob, who is 90 years old, has helped guide the Center from its inception and he is still going strong!


Article published in April 2006, New Jersey Municipalities

 

 

 

Click Here to return to the League's Home Page