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Litter Control: A View from New Jersey

Letter to the Editor
Cape Cod Times

Massachusetts State Senator O'Leary recently wrote in your paper that our "New Jersey Litter Control Fee" would be superior to your bottle bill and suggested abandoning your successful bottle bill and replacing it with our system. Here in NJ, our experience indicates that doing so would not be a wise idea. Here is how a fellow NJ resident responded after reading Senator O'Leary's article:

"My road looks like a recycling center -- except no one is recycling all the bottles and cans that people have tossed from their vehicles. My husband and I did a cleanup on just 1/2-mile of the road a few weeks ago, filling the back of his pickup truck with bags, and within two days you would never know anyone had done anything. If other states can keep their roadways free of litter with bottle bills, I say we should work for the same here in New Jersey."

In a nutshell, The "New Jersey Litter Control Fee" is no substitute for a container deposit system and we would very much like to have a bottle bill here in New Jersey. Our current fee is a miniscule litter-producer-responsibility-TAX which attempts to make those who produce litter responsible for cleaning it up.

Unfortunately, the task is far greater than the small amount that's collected. A maximum rate of only 0.03% - generating only $14 million - isn't nearly enough to combat the enormous number of containers and other forms of litter that plague our environment. By the time we split this sum over 400 ways, it averages only $35,000 to each city, town, and county for cleanup and disposal. As you can imagine, this is nowhere near what's needed.

An examination of New Jersey's system shows that while a producer responsibility fee does make sense in helping clean up litter, it does nothing to prevent litter from being created. It's like dealing with a leaky roof by buying more buckets. What's needed is an incentive system such as your bottle bill to complement our current program.

We believe that the answer to this problem is not with one program, but with many - in close coordination. A producer responsibility fee coupled with a bottle bill, improved curbside recycling, and more recycling collection points are a start. We urge Massachusetts to retain their bottle bill while improving recycling efforts (and then maybe help us get a bottle bill here in New Jersey, too).

Sunil Somalwar
Sierra Club of New Jersey
1015 S Park Av
Highland Park NJ 08904




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