Bergen County NJ residents can now recycle polystyrene, foam

RIDGEFIELD PARK — If you've ever felt guilty about throwing packaging foam in the trash instead of finding a way to recycle it, Bergen County has found a solution.

Ridgefield Park and the county have partnered to provide an opportunity for all municipalities to recycle expanded polystyrene, which many call Styrofoam, a trademarked brand. Eps Foam Sheet Production Line

Bergen County NJ residents can now recycle polystyrene, foam

The packaging material may take more than 500 years to decompose, but the option to recycle it has not been easily accessible.

Locally, municipalities were asking businesses to go foam-free and hold local recycling drives, Ridgefield Park Village Commissioner Mark Olson said.

After the foam was collected, it was driven to a densifying machine. Olson said the one nearest to Ridgefield Park was in Haskell, and it was a private company that wasn't as dependable for local municipalities to use.

“We saw so many towns holding [polystyrene] drives, the conversations began on how can we do more and engage in a collaborative way to get it out of the landfills,” County Commissioner Tracy Zur said.

In the last year, the county and village have worked together to form an agreement to purchase the foam densifying machine to increase sustainability and recycling programs.

The Bergen County Board of County Commissioners allocated $40,000 to Ridgefield Park to purchase and install the machine.

Though the machine will be in the village, it will be made available to any Bergen County municipality through a shared service agreement.

At least 10 municipalities have signed up for the agreement.

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County Executive Jim Tedesco said the arrangement is a great example of county and municipal government working together.

“Throughout my tenure as county executive, we have strived to reach creative solutions through the expansion of shared services with our municipal partners, local boards of education and neighboring counties," Tedesco said. “I thank all stakeholders for making today a reality and strongly encourage all municipalities to take advantage of this opportunity as we work toward building a more sustainable Bergen County.”

The densifier is now fully operational and has the capacity to densify 200 pounds of foam per hour.

The machine heats the foam, almost melting it. "It looks like a pool noodle. Then it gets formed into a brick," Olson said.

Those bricks then go on a pallet, and when the village accumulates 1,500 pounds the material can be sold to a recycling company.

This initiative came to fruition as a result of efforts from several stakeholders including Zur, Olson and the local organization Sustainable Jersey-Bergen Hub.

The county has taken steps to reduce the amount of foam waste by banning its use in all county parks and facilities, Zur said. "This new EPS densifier will serve as an important recycling tool while creating new opportunities for partnerships and shared services," she said.

In April, Ridgewood became the first municipality in the county to buy a polystyrene densifier. At the time, officials said the machine had compressed more than 7,000 pounds of foam packaging during a 15-month rental test period, saving more than 5,500 cubic feet of landfill space.

The village has bought the $68,000 machine and is in discussions about shared service agreements with Washington Township and Glen Rock to take on their foam recycling as well.

Bergen County NJ residents can now recycle polystyrene, foam

Foam Plastic Sheet Extrusion Line Earlier this year, a similar shared agreement was reached by Passaic County and Clifton. In return for the use of the county's densifier, Clifton will accept containers of the material from all 16 Passaic County municipalities.