New Jersey Solid Waste Program Focus Shifts to Sustainability in 2023

The NJDEP solid waste program underwent a subtle but meaningful rebranding in 2022. Formerly known as the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, it is now known as the Division of Sustainable Waste Management (DSWM) and is housed under the Assistant Commissioner for Air, Energy and Material Sustainability. A noticeable focus on sustainability will characterize the DSWMs 2023 priorities. Moreover, there is some synergy in the reorganization, given that the Air and Solid Waste programs are likely to be the most involved in the new Environmental Justice permitting process.

Speaking at the 21st Annual NJDEP-AWMA Regulatory Update Conference in November, the new Division Director, Janine MacGregor, noted the increased emphasis on sustainability as a consequence of new and pending legislation over the last few years and identified a variety of Division priorities in 2023, including:

  • Recycled Content Law – Enacted at the beginning of 2022, this law imposed minimum recycled content requirements on certain manufacturers of containers and packaging products in an effort to create or expand the market for recyclables. The DSWM is currently developing regulations to implement this program.
  • Food Waste Reduction and Recycling – There are two primary laws that the DSWM is charged with implementing:
  1. The Food Waste Reduction Law (enacted in 2017) which requires NJDEP to develop a plan to reduce food waste in New Jersey by 50 percent by 2030;
  2. The Large Generator Food Waste Recycling Law (enacted in 2020), which requires certain large generators of food waste to separate and recycle it.

DSWM is currently finalizing its Food Waste Reduction Plan and is planning to issue the Plan and proposed regulations on food waste recycling and food waste energy production and composting in early 2023.

  • Get Past Plastic Initiative – This is the program that implements the law passed in 2020 that, among other things, bans single use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food serve products and containers in New Jersey. The law is currently being implemented without regulations and the DSWM expects to propose those in the second half of 2023.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements – EPR, which is a concept that is intended to reduce waste by making product manufacturers and distributors responsible for their products and packaging at the end of life, is a concept currently under consideration in New Jersey. S-426, pending in the NJ Senate, would require manufacturers of certain containers to develop and implement a product stewardship plan. DSWM is advising Senator Smith on the bill and researching how similar laws work elsewhere.
  • Advanced Recycling – This is an emerging technology that turns used solid plastic into its gas or liquid raw materials to be remanufactured into new plastic for use in plastic products or packaging. DSWM is currently researching these technologies and how other states are regulating them, including whether the entities should be regulated as manufacturers, recycling or solid waste facilities.

Other programs on which the DSWM is currently working, as reported by Director MacGregor, are the following (all of which have elements of waste reduction/reuse/recycling):

  • Electronic -Waste – DSWM is working on regulations to strengthen and streamline the manufacturer reporting program with a rule proposal expected in early 2023.
  • Recycling Rules – DSWM is working on revising the exemptions from the recycling regulations with an eye toward evening the playing field between those recyclers that are and are not exempted. A rule proposal is expected in early 2023.
  • Dirty Dirt Law – This is the law that requires certain entities in the business of providing fill and soil recycling services to be licensed under the A-901 program. Regulations are expected to be proposed in the summer of 2023.

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