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Is NJDEP ramping up enforcement of recycling regulations?

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By Martin Milita, Esq.

A couple of weeks ago the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued requests of those engaged in “exempt” recycling activities in New Jersey to “self-report”. That is to state in a form provided by NJDEP if they are engaged in recycling activates and if they have one of the 24 different exemptions, from the need for a recycling center approval. The NJDEP thus may be ramping up enforcement of recycling regulations soon. New Jersey recycling approvals and permits are often difficult to obtain, costly and may take upwards of two years to obtain. For some, there are exemptions to the rules requiring a full blown approval.

What you need to know:

Recycling businesses in New Jersey are considered to be a type of solid waste facility, and are subject to solid waste regulations. With the notorious history of illegal dumping in New Jersey the solid waste regulations are among the most complicated regulations administered by the NJDEP.

Fortunately, the NJDEP has 24 different exemptions, spanning a wide variety of recycling activities. However, the exemptions are restrictive and narrowly defined. There are too few and they are often unclear.  For example, New Jersey Recycling Exemption #20, also known as the “Contractor’s Exemption”, is one of the more commonly used exemptions. This exemption allows a construction company or contractor, through their construction or demolition activities that generate source separated concrete, asphalt, brick, and block, to store and process these materials at their own yards.

This is valid provided that you are the sole generator of the material, and that you are the sole user of the finished product. In other words, if you produce the material, you can process it at your yard, but you must then be the user of the recycled material on a future project of yours. They keys here are:

  • The same company must produce and use the material.
  • No material can come from outside parties.
  • You can’t sell the material at all.

Hence, if a road contractor produced broken concrete curbing and pavement, it could be brought back to their yard and processed (crushed) into material that then could be used on their future projects.

A warning:

Just because you have gotten an exemption from the NJDEP does not mean that you are compliant with your municipality. Always check for compliance with local and county laws. Local and county government may require some form of approval of your operation, regardless of what the NJDEP does or does not require. Recycling businesses, even facilities completely indoors, are still subject to approvals like air permits and stormwater permits. If you are lacking the right permits, you can, and probably will, get in trouble from the NJDEP. Just last year we saw two different existing operations shut down because they didn’t meet local laws.

Be warned that once you obtain one of the 24 exemptions and/or self-report an exemption you are now on record with the NJDEP as being a recycling business. Expect regulators and inspectors from the state and county to show up at your facilities. Know what you need to do and adhere scrupulously to the conditions of your exemption.

Categories: Energy