April 22 was the 46th Earth Day. It all began in 1970 when millions of people called for environmental reforms resulting in the introduction of recycling keeping plastics, glass, and paper from our landfills for reuse and recycling.
Where is Princeton almost 50 years later? As the first town in New Jersey to offer curbside food waste pick up, we have moved beyond traditional recycling and created a model program that other towns are copying. In its first five years, the municipality’s curbside organics program diverted more than 500 tons of organic matter from the landfill, turning it into beautiful soil.
Princeton residents and retailers have also recycled almost 5 million plastic bags since last year through the ABCs Recycling Campaign, diverting some seven tons of plastics from the landfill.
Where do we go from here? To answer that question, Sustainable Princeton has formed the Zero Waste Working Group comprised of local restaurant owners, retailers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders.
With your help, the working group looks forward to making measurable change between now and Earth Day, 2017. We begin by offering six ideas to get us all started toward a Zero Waste Princeton.
1. Commit to a zero waste mindset — reduce, reuse, recycle, compost.
2. Let it Go by hosting a yard sale on Saturday, April 30, as part of the town wide Let It Go event. Sign up on the Princeton Public Library website, www.princetonlibrary.org.
3. Just say no to sending food waste to the landfill. Food scraps are a commodity to be turned back into soil. Residents can join the Curbside Organics Program by calling 609-688-2566. Retailers can contact a number of compost facilities to pick up their food waste. And those of us who compost in the backyard should keep doing exactly what we are already doing.
4. Be careful with compostable tableware. If you are in the municipal Curbside Organics program, our current compost facility is unable to take compostable tableware such as cups and utensils. Keep putting food and uncoated paper waste in your organics bin — but please, while we are working out details, direct anything else to recycling or trash. Watch for more curbside composting information coming soon.
5. Watch for a How to Recycle brochure to be published soon to help answer your questions about what goes in which recycle bin and where residents can take those hard to recycle items for recycling.
6. Stay tuned for updates about food waste compost options for Mercer County, including AgriArk, a locally owned clean compost facility in Hopewell that is already turning food waste into fertilizer. Also, watch for a potential bioGas facility in Trenton.
We look forward to working with you to reduce, reuse and recycle to move our town closer to zero waste!
Executive director, Sustainable Princeton