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A Senate Commitment to Widespread Recycling in N.J.

Mayor De Blasio Announces Sweeping Environmental Sustainability Plan For New York City

According to the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, more than 32 percent of municipal waste in New Jersey comes from packaging

Every year in New Jersey, tens of millions of tons of solid waste are incinerated or deposited into landfills, posing a serious threat to the environment, public health and safety.

New Jersey's growing landfills release toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater. Incinerated waste emits dangerous toxins and air pollutants.

In our most-densely populated state, it is imperative that we all expand recycling efforts to ensure a safer, cleaner and greener future for us all and generations to come. We introduced Senate Resolution 130 urging state and local entities to implement innovative programs to keep commonly un-recycled and difficult-to-recycle items out of landfills and incinerators. We are working to set this example at our schools, government buildings, parks, museums, beaches and attractions in hopes that families and businesses will also follow suit.

Progress has been made in recent years, with many New Jerseyans working with their municipalities and counties to save tons of plastic and paper waste from landfills and incinerators. However, there is not nearly enough awareness about or emphasis on recycling options for common waste, such as cigarette butts, used electronics, snack bags, single-brewing coffee pods, shoes, packaging materials, filters and office supplies.

In 2012 alone, only 44 percent of the 20 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in the state was recycled. More than 32 percent of municipal waste in New Jersey comes from packaging, as many facilities do not have the infrastructure to recycle unidentified, blended plastic bags such as common snack, chips and sandwich bags people throw out every day, according to the Association of New Jersey Recyclers.

It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to raise awareness and conduct more conscientious recycling efforts throughout the Garden State.

Last week, we visited TerraCycle, a Trenton-based operation that offers innovative ways to save such difficult-to-recycle items — often with zero cost for consumers, taxpayers, small businesses and government entities. TerraCycle services also involve upcycling, which is the practice of repurposing waste into raw materials or new and more useful products. Upcycling reduces the amount of new raw materials that are needed to create products, thus conserving energy and natural resources.

Our visit to TerraCycle inspired SR-130, which should spark widespread efforts to recycle all waste in New Jersey — not just plastic and paper.

The benefits of statewide recycling initiative also extend beyond environmental protection. Recycling is a key driver for our state's economy, generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the sale of recycled and upcycled products has also become an increasingly important part of the retail sector, comprising over 1,000 different products, which are affordable, readily available and meet the highest quality standards.

We need to do everything we can to secure a cleaner, greener future for us all and generations to come. We must establish a norm for recycling and repurposing the vast majority of used products and resources.

We encourage each of you to increase recycling efforts at your home or workplace, as we work in Trenton to pass this resolution to increase recycling at all levels of government across the state.

By using innovative, local programs to increase our recycling efforts around the state, together, we will protect the environment and ensure that New Jersey lives up to its prestigious moniker: "The Garden State."