Montclair Adapts To Recycling Pick Up Suspension

The Township of Montclair had to temporarily halt its recycling pick up due to the impact of COVID-19 on staff. But Montclair has adapted with residents dropping off their recyclables to the DCS yard at 219 North Fullerton Avenue. So many residents in fact, that the Township responded by expanding recycling drop-off days and hours.

Township Manager Timothy Stafford discussed recycling suspension during council meeting Tuesday.

Township Manager Timothy Stafford spoke of the challenges facing the Township during Tuesday’s council meeting, explaining how the township tried to avoid the suspension. The township explored the idea of conducting a single trash pick-up and one recycling collection per week, but found it would be unsustainable for several reasons:

  • A single-load trash pick-up conducted twice a week requires 5 trucks and 15 employees and takes approximately 6 hours to complete. A double-load trash pickup conducted once a week requires at least 6 or 7 trucks and 18 to 21 employees, depending on volume, and takes approximately 10 to 12 hours to conduct.
  • Given the severe loss of employee numbers due to COVID-19, it became clear that the township does not have enough workers to conduct a double-load pick-up on a sustainable basis. Not only would the load be too taxing on the workers who are currently available, but the same employees would also have to collect the weekly recycling in the town’s four recycling collection sections. So, what is normally completed in four days would need to be done in two or three days.

The township also sought quotes from four private haulers to see if they could provide temporary assistance. Three are experiencing the same situation with severely reduced employee numbers. The fourth gave a six-figure quote for a four-week period.

Stafford said he did not know when the suspension would end.

“The illness impacts people differently. Some people are back working quickly. Other people are not. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of long haulers on the news who are impacted for months,” Stafford said. “We hope that isn’t going to be the case here. We hope that the people who have been working tirelessly every day since March of 2020 can return to work promptly.”

Councilor Peter Yacobellis asked residents to take this time as an opportunity to revisit recycling best practices.

He urged residents make sure to clean out their recyclables of any food residue to minimize chance of bacterial growth.

“Remember that we only pick up recycling plastics numbers one, two, and five,” he added. “So if it’s not labeled one, two or five, it should not be in your recycling bin. It should go in your trash bin.”

Yacobellis reminded residents to collapse and flatten cardboard to save space and encouraged residents to visit the township website to review what the recycling rules are.

Councilor At Large Peter Yacobellis visits with Department of Community Services employees, at work accepting recycling. Drop off hours are Wednesdays: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Fridays: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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  1. Very sorry to hear the recycling staff are afflicted but why can’t the town hire temporary worriers? Why haves 1000 or so families tote boxes somewhere every week

  2. Sorry, no sale. There is a logistical solution to this problem but it requires specialized experience in managing sanitation. Tim Stafford is an excellent Township Manager, but sanitation logistics is not his area. It’s not mine, either, but I’ve had the privilege of working with people who are unbelievable at it, so I know what real logistics professionals can bring to the table. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is why Montclair shouldn’t be in the sanitation business. We don’t know how to do it in the most efficient manner. Temporary workers aren’t the answer to our current problem, either. Drivers need to have commercial drivers licenses and be trained in our specific trucks. Laborers need training, too; the compactors are dangerous equipment, and not everyone is cut out to lift tons (yes, tons) of trash per day while avoiding the physical and biological hazards of doing so. And here’s the biggest problem: Councilor Yacobellis seems to be assuming that people are saving their recycling for when collections resumes or bringing it to the central collection point. I’m sure many people are—my wife was among those who waited 20+ minutes to drop off our recycling this week—but I suspect others are putting recyclables in the trash, and that’s 100% illegal. I’d be very interested to hear if the Manager or the Council sought a legal opinion as to whether New Jersey law allows Montclair to suspend recycling while continuing trash collection. If this question had come to me while I was in the Attorney General’s Office, my environmental team would have had to convince me that what Montclair is doing here meets the letter and spirit of the mandatory recycling laws. Maybe it does, but I’d like to hear that from someone who knows the specific laws better than I do.

    To be clear, though, none of this is the fault of our Community Service workers. They deserve our support and our thanks, and I again wish those who are ill a speedy and full recovery. We need them, but their families and loved ones need them more.

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