By Guy Watson
Dealing with trash and recycling in New Jersey is a major and costly challenge. There are some 20 million tons of waste generated each year in the state – 9 million tons of trash and 11 million tons of recyclables – with each person generating an average of 2.4 pounds of refuse per day.
In 2010, New Jersey spent nearly $1 billion disposing of the 9 million tons of trash, not including costs associated with related environmental cleanups.
To cut those costs, further reduce trash tonnage, improve recycling efforts and enhance our environment, the Christie Administration, through the Department of Environmental Protection, is seeking the support and cooperation of all of its residents, institutions, and commercial and industry partners. A key sector in helping deal with the issue is the state’s hospitality and tourism industry, whose members gathered last month at the Green Tourism and Hospitality Conference in Somerset County to focus on environmental stewardship.
New Jersey’s $36 billion-a year tourism industry is vital to the state’s economy. It also is a major player when it comes to our environment, and can play a major role in helping to help reduce the state’s solid waste burden, setting an example to New Jersey residents and visitors on how to properly deal with waste.
Here are just a few ways the DEP believes the hospitality and tourism industry can help:
In 2012, New Jersey marked the 25th anniversary of its mandatory recycling law, which was the first law of its kind in the nation. While significant progress on recycling has been made during that period, one-third of the state’s municipalities continue to recycle less than 25 percent and only 16 percent have meet the 50 percent mandatory recycling rate. The hospitality and tourism industry can do its part by:
Ensuring they understand and follow the state’s recycling law and rules, including new provisions related to proper disposal of electronic waste, such as televisions, computers, printers and other electronic devices.
Providing convenient, visible recycling infrastructure to clients, guests and employees in rooms, lobbies, near trash cans and exits.
Promoting Clean Communities:
There is an average of 1,300 visible trash items per mile in New Jersey, which exceeds the national litter rate. Since a clean community or neighborhood or business district enhances tourism possibilities, it’s in the state’s best interest to pick up after itself. Reducing litter visibility rate can be as simple as providing recycling and trash receptacles in public places, like strip malls and parks, as well as on public streets. It’s important that both types of receptacles are provided to encourage increased recycling. The hospitality and tourism industry can do its part by:
Providing detailed on-site recycling information to clients, guests and employees.
Providing adequate recycling and trash containers throughout their properties.
Asking local governments to provide trash and recycling infrastructure in the public areas around hospitality and tourism businesses.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 13.9 percent of New Jersey’s solid waste is food scraps. Giving food waste a second life reduces the state’s disposal burden and saves money through avoided disposal costs. The hospitality and tourism industry can do its part by:
Investing in on-site composting facilities.
Partnering with area farms or biofuel businesses to use your compost materials.
By adopting these green measures, New Jersey’s hospitality and tourism industry can be leaders in sustainability in our state and nation. Their efforts can improve our environment, while making their facilities and offerings more attractive to visitors, thereby improving their fiscal viability and helping the state’s economy. It’s a win for everyone involved.
Guy Watson is the bureau chief of recycling and planning for the state Department of Environmental Protection.