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5 Creative Ways Local Organizations Are Overcoming Challenges in the Recycling Industry

May 23, 2019

The Atlantic Cape May Sustainable Jersey Hub recently hosted “Creative Solutions for Plastic Recycling” at the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority (CMCMUA). The event was attended by residents in the community looking to find out how local organizations are taking initiative and discovering solutions to improve the way we recycle. Leaders from both Atlantic and Cape May Counties gave presentations explaining the programs they have established.


We’ve recapped five of the programs shared at the event that can be replicated to help us work together and dispose of waste properly.


1. Plastic Bag Challenge Helps Students Get Excited About Recycling and Reduce Plastic Bags at the Curb


To cut back on the amount of plastic bags coming to the county recycling center, CMCMUA developed a plastic bag and film recycling challenge that got schools involved and helped students get excited about recycling. CMCMUA’s challenge lasted five months and involved students bringing in plastic film from home that was eventually recycled through local grocery stores – the best way to recycle this material.

Plastic Film in Recycling Center
Plastic film thrown in recycling bins get tangled in machinery and slow down the recycling process


The schools competed to see which could bring in the most materials. The numbers were based on enrollment at the schools and number of pounds collected so larger schools did not have an advantage. All plastic film was accepted including water bottle cases, newspaper bags and more.

The winning school received a recycled Trex bench and a trophy. The other schools received smaller prizes, and all students were given a reusable bag to help them remember to bring back their old recycled bags. The challenge was also a great way to help families understand that recycling of plastic bags and film is not done curbside but can be taken to local grocery stores.

2. Recycling Inspections Help Residents Learn to Recycle the Correct Materials


Many residents don’t realize the importance of recycling only the right items. Putting incorrect items in your recycling bin can negatively affect the recycling process. For example, plastic bags get caught in the machinery at the recycling center and endanger recycling plant workers who have to cut them out. Items with food residue not only make a mess, but can ruin the chances that perfectly good paper and cardboard will be recycled.

Good and Bad Recycling
Items should be placed loose in your recycling bin

ACUA is currently working with Egg Harbor Township on a recycling inspection project that was replicated from Burlington County. Volunteers perform a quick inspection recycling bins left out on the curb for pick-up and leave notes explaining what items should not be included. This practice helps educate residents on how to recycle the right materials. It is suggested to visit the same houses four times to see if recycling has improved.

If your town is interested in this project, please let us know! We’d love to work with you.

3. Trash and Recycling Carts Can Help Prevent Litter on Trash Day

A representative from ACUA spoke about the benefits of towns using trash and recycling carts to help encourage recycling and prevent litter from getting in the street. The carts come with attached lids, which help keep materials contained. Residents will find carts easy to maneuver and have plenty of room for materials. A cart grant is currently available through the Recycling Partnership for municipalities interested in purchasing them for their communities.

Recycling and Trash Cart



If you are interested in purchasing a cart for your ACUA pick up services in Atlantic County, please visit our online store.

4. Egg Harbor Township's Slaybaugh School Gets Students Involved in Recycling

Representatives from the Slaybaugh School Complex in Egg Harbor Township gave a presentation explaining the changes they made to improve their school’s recycling program. By getting students, custodians and teachers involved in the collection of recycled material, they were able to win first place in the state of New Jersey for Keep America Beautiful’s Recycle-Bowl Competition for 2018. They collected the largest amount of recycling in the state.

Slaybaugh School Recycle Bowl
Slaybaugh School Complex accepting a check from ACUA for winning the Recycle-Bowl in New Jersey

Slaybaugh School Complex also performed a waste audit where students got involved in dumping the trash from their cafeteria on a giant tarp to discover what belonged in the trash or recycling bins. The school suggested taking students on field trips to their local utilities authority so the students can learn what happens to their trash and recycling after it is picked up.


If you are interested in planning a school visit to ACUA, click here.

5. TerraCycle is Helping Brigantine Recycle Items Not Accepted in Their Recycling Program

The President of the Brigantine Green Team presented some of the changes that the City of Brigantine is implementing to make the beach town more environmentally friendly including a plastic bag ban going to effect June 1, 2019 and certification to recognize businesses doing their part.

K-Cups and Bottle Caps
Items like K-Cups and bottle caps should be thrown in the trash and not recycling.

This year, Brigantine will introduce TerraCycle to the Brigantine Farmer’s Market. TerraCycle is an innovative way to recycle items that are not usually accepted in curbside recycling programs. TerraCycle provides a box, which can be ordered online, for you to fill with an item of your choosing. On three separate dates, they will be collecting either bottle caps, K-Cups or Red Solo cups. Residents of Brigantine will bring their items from home to place in the box. This is a creative way to help residents understand that these items should not be included in curbside recycling and keep these items out of the landfill.