New Fertilizer Law Goes ‘Greener’
By Michele S. Byers
Lawns don’t usually green up this time of year –but there’s hope yet.
New state regulations on lawn fertilizers just kicked in. This means a winter blackout for applying nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – to lawns. The new rules aim to reduce the level of nutrients that end up in our rivers, streams, lakes and bays.
The fertilizer law, said to be the toughest in the nation, was signed by Gov. Christie in January 2011 as part of a comprehensive plan to reverse the decline of water quality in Barnegat Bay. But the new regulations help every waterway in this state we’re in.
Most lawns have heavily compacted soil, with few pores able to let in applied chemicals and water. Rainwater picks up herbicides, fungicides and excessive nutrients from lawns, and then flows into storm sewers and streams, eventually ending up in rivers, lakes and bays.
Plants need nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, to grow, but in limited amounts. Too many nutrients mask more serious lawn health issues and ruin the health of aquatic systems. Problems include algae growth and reduced dissolved oxygen levels, which kill many aquatic animals and smother beneficial aquatic plants that provide habitat. Only a few weeds that tolerate pollution can survive.
A 2012 study by Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences found that the waters of Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor Estuary, in particular, are in serious ecological decline from the use of excessive fertilizer.
Here’s what the new law does:
• Institutes best management practices to reduce impacts on waterways and educate the public.
• Creates a certification program for landscapers.
• Requires manufacturers to reformulate fertilizers with reduced, slow-release nitrogen and zero phosphorous for typical situations.
• Establishes a winter blackout period for nitrogen and phosphorus use.
The winter blackout runs from Nov. 15 to March 1 for homeowners, and Dec. 1 to March 1 for commercial landscapers.
These new fertilizer regulations are a good first step toward reducing nutrient contamination in our waterways.
But why apply chemicals to lawns at all? You can save money, protect water quality and have healthier soil and grass by going organic.
A Rodale Institute study compared lawns treated with traditional fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides to those treated with organic compost “tea.” The study found that the organic method produced healthier grass. Organic fertilizers ensure a living soil with healthy microorganisms, which create better root growth and resistance to drought and disease.
To learn more about New Jersey’s fertilizer law, including an explanation of exceptions and acceptable application rates, visit www.nj.gov/dep/healthylawnshealthywater. For more about the Rodale study, go to rodaleinstitute.org/2013/organic-vs-chemical-lawn-care-which-one-leads-to-healthier-grass.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
A Call to Renew Our Commitment to Recycling
By Jane Kozinski
More than 25 years ago, New Jersey paved the way by adopting the nation’s first statewide mandatory recycling law. Today, New Jersey residents recycle an average of 40 percent of their municipal solid waste, one of the best rates in the nation and significantly better than the 34.7 percent national average.
The Christie Administration is proud to support New Jersey’s recycling programs across our towns and counties. As we celebrate America Recycles Day this month, it is a time to celebrate New Jersey’s recycling successes. It’s also a time renew our commitment to recycling and look ahead to creating new and innovative recycling opportunities.
After dipping for many years, the state’s recycling rate has been rising again, thanks to work being done here at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and with our partners. We have been working hard with municipal and county governments to educate the public about the continued need to recycle. The Association of New Jersey Recyclers has been a longstanding and vital partner.
But we can do even better. While many communities are nearing or have hit our 50 percent recycling goal, many others have not. I commend those communities that have reached this goal and urge them to continue working to boost rates even more. And I am asking those cities and towns that have not reached this target to work even harder, to reinvigorate their programs and work toward that 50 percent goal.
In addition to the obvious benefits of helping our environment and conserving resources, recycling saves local governments money and generates revenues. It also creates thousands of jobs.
The average disposal cost for a ton of municipal solid waste in New Jersey is about $75. The average value of a ton of recyclables placed at the curb is worth at least $50 per ton.
For towns and cities that provide curbside collection to their residents, this means they lose about $125 for every ton of recyclables that is disposed at landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled.
If that weren’t enough, consider this:
• Recycling significantly extends the lives of landfills, minimizing the need to build new disposal facilities in the future.
• By recycling 1.5 million tons of paper in New Jersey, we are reducing air emissions equivalent to taking 580,000 motor vehicles off the road compared with making paper products from virgin materials.
• According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on average, 1.67 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents are avoided for every ton of municipal solid waste recycled.
So how can we improve?
Many of our businesses are still not recycling, or are not recycling as much as they could. We’d like to encourage our business community to take responsibility for their recyclables.
There are simple, cost-effective ways for our small businesses, shopping malls, convenience stores, hotels, retail shops, and office buildings to comply with the law. We invite them to partner with the DEP in developing strategies to improve their recycling performance.
In addition, I urge our businesses that are recycling superstars to mentor others in the business community on how to incorporate waste minimization and recycling into their business plans. Use existing business associations to help you coordinate this mentoring effort.
At the local government level, I strongly urge recycling coordinators, public works officials, town councils and mayors, and environmental commissions to take a hard look at your public spaces. Are there recycling containers on your main streets? In your parks?
Making it easy for people to recycle by placing receptacles in public parks, shopping areas, office complexes and other common areas is probably the most critical step you can take to make recycling successful. Every outdoor event such as festivals, county fairs and street markets should provide containers for both trash and recyclables. It seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked.
At the DEP, we are making food waste recycling a priority. Many of our restaurants, grocery stores, universities and colleges already are collecting food waste for composting, conversion to energy through anaerobic digestion, or to feed livestock.
Unfortunately, they have to send food waste out of state because New Jersey does not currently have commercial-scale food waste recycling capacity. Until we do, source separation of food wastes will not be widely available to our residents, businesses and institutions.
The DEP welcomes proposals for the development of responsible food waste recycling capacity in our state so we can accelerate the diversion of those materials from the waste stream.
Recycling is working in New Jersey. Many of our local governments, businesses and institutions are shining examples of the strong recycling work ethic that spreads throughout their communities.
Let’s not just celebrate America Recycles Day as a one-day event. Let’s make it the starting point for everyone – every local and county government, every business, every school and every institution, to renew their commitment to recycling.
Look at what’s working, and look at what you can do to improve. Get your family, friends, co-workers, teachers and schoolmates, neighbors and employers involved.
Recycling is good for New Jersey’s environment, good for your pocketbook and good for our economy.
For information on recycling, including tips, statistics, trends, a downloadable audio public service announcement, and more, visit: www.RecycleNJ.org
Jane Kozinski is the state Department of Environmental Protection’s assistant commissioner for environmental management.
Two River Moment
Members of the Red Bank Police Athletic League (PAL) pose in front of a bus during a bus trip in 1964. This photo is among the pictures featured in the 2014 Prown’s Calender. The calendar includes 14 black-and-white classic Red Bank photographs that were selected from the Dorn’s Classic Images collection. This year’s theme is “Prown’s Remembers Red Bank Youth.”