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Community Recycling Success Stories: Clifton, New Jersey

Clifton, New Jersey, is a suburban community of 78,000 residents ten miles west of New York City.  Clifton is the home of a nationally recognized recycling program, and was the recipient of the EPA Environmental Quality Award in 2007 as well as being named Local Government Partner of the Year at the 2009 EPA WasteWise awards. 

Clifton recycles at least 34 percent of household waste and has achieved an overall recycling rate of 56 percent.

The recycling program in Clifton is one of the oldest in the country, having been implemented in the early 1970s.  Recycling is mandatory for both households and businesses, and Clifton was the first city in New Jersey to implement a local EPR program. 

Interestingly, some of the factors identified as keys to success are not present in this program. 

For one, the program is not overly convenient.  Residents must provide their own containers, separate multiple materials and curbside collection is only provided once every three weeks.  Furthermore, many materials included in the recycling mandate are not collected at the curb and must be transported to a drop-off center. 

Second, refuse and recycling are funded entirely through property taxes.  There is no pay-as-you-throw program, and no rewards program, so there is no financial incentive to recycle.

Clifton Clean Communities

Clifton’s success can be attributed to the strong community emphasis on quality of life, including cleanliness, health and environment.  Clifton has launched its own environmental initiative, Clifton Clean Communities, and is a partner in the EPA’s WasteWise program.   Clifton is also an active participant in a number of state and federal environmental initiatives, including the Take Pride in America Program. 

Beyond the symbolic value of these associations, Clifton is heavily involved in education and outreach.  The recycling office provides multiple recycling workshops for both businesses and residents throughout the year, runs annual Clean Communities presentations , partners with the school system, as well as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and publishes an annual recycling calendar which is distributed to all residents and businesses.  By sponsoring so many events and publishing materials Clifton keeps residents engaged in the effort.

Clifton’s efforts are aided by the state’s recycling policies and local industry.  New Jersey has set a state recycling goal of 60 percent, levies a landfill tax of $8 per ton, and has some of the highest tipping fees in the nation at $68 per ton.  Recycling often proves to be the more cost effective option for businesses and municipalities in the state.  The presence of strong local markets is beneficial as well.  New Jersey is home to many companies that use recycled materials as the base for their manufacturing processes, and Clifton is in close proximity to several such firms.

Demographically Clifton is not remarkable.  Education levels, racial and gender makeup, home ownership and median age all hover around national averages.  However, the community is more affluent than average with a median household income of $60,000, almost $10,000 higher than the national figure.  The combination of affluence, a sense of community identity and commitment to lifestyle has resulted in strong support for the recycling program in Clifton. 

Click here to visit Clifton’s recycling web page.

Demographic data obtained from the 2010 United States Census.

This entry was posted in Motivating Recycling Behavior, Recycling News, Recycling Policy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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