New Jersey – Waste Disposal Surcharge

Recycling Enhancement Act

In 1987, New Jersey became the second state in the country to make recycling mandatory. The state demonstrated its renewed commitment to waste diversion with the passage of the Recycling Enhancement Act (REA) in 2008, which imposed a recycling tax of $3 per ton of solid waste disposed at or transferred to a solid waste facility, including transfer to out-of-state facilities. 9.7 million tons of waste was disposed of in 2018, yielding approximately $29 million in revenue from the recycling tax. 

“C.13:1E-96.5 Recycling tax on owner, operator of solid waste facility; applicability; rate. 4. a. (1) There is levied upon the owner or operator of every solid waste facility a recycling tax of $3.00 per ton on all solid waste accepted for disposal or transfer at the solid waste facility.”


Payment of this tax is the responsibility of either the solid waste facility owner or operator, or of a solid waste collector participating in transshipment or direct shipment to an out-of-state disposal facility. The waste facilities decide if they want to pass tax costs on to waste collectors, which also have the option to pass costs on to customers. If passed on, the amount must be equal to the tax obligation and clearly represented on invoices or statements.

The Recycling Enhancement Act (Section 5; State Recycling Fund; allocation of moneys) breaks down provision of funds as follows:

“60% of the estimated annual balance of the fund shall be used for the annual expenses of a program for direct recycling grants to municipalities or counties
5% of the estimated annual balance of the fund shall be used for State recycling program planning and program funding, including the administrative expenses thereof
“25% of the estimated annual balance of the fund shall be used to provide State aid to counties for preparing, revising, and implementing solid waste management plans, including the implementation of the goals of the State Recycling Plan
“5% of the estimated annual balance of the fund shall be used by counties for public information and education programs concerning recycling activities
“5% of the estimated annual balance of the fund shall be used by the department to provide grants to institutions of higher education to conduct research in recycling.”


County Recycling Tonnage Grants

Proceeds from this tax accumulate in the REA recycling tax fund, 60% of which funds recycling tonnage grants to be used solely for municipality and county recycling programs. The DEP allocates the grants to local governments based on how much recycling each municipality reports. This information is included in the annual grant application process. In 2021, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) awarded $16 million in grants to fund municipal and county recycling programs, representing a $1.8 million increase since 2019. The 2021 grants were based on the 2018 tonnage reports

The remaining portions of the REA fund go toward local implementation of solid waste management plans, public education programs on recycling, recycling program planning, and grants to higher education institutions.


Jersey City, NJ

As one of New Jersey’s largest cities, Jersey City in Hudson County received $320,000 in recycling tonnage grant funding in 2018 (according to the latest payout data). According to Sonia Dublin, Jersey City’s Recycling Coordinator, money from the recycling tonnage grants has significantly supported their recycling program. From expansion of recycling education programs, to improvements in recycling transport and collection infrastructure, to salary payments for Recycling Directors and Educators, Jersey City has taken advantage of this funding to enhance its recycling programs. They are also looking at potentially using this funding to expand their curbside composting pilot program, pending clarification on the eligibility of citywide composting programs for recycling grant funding.1 


Higher Education Research Grants

The Higher Education Research Grant Program allocates approximately $1 million of the REA recycling tax fund to higher education institutions in New Jersey to carry out research, education, and demonstration projects that strengthen recycling efforts across the state. These grants are awarded competitively to eligible New Jersey institutions of higher education who have filled out a grant application. Preference is given to projects that partner with entities that have specific expertise related to the project. 

These grants have funded projects under four areas including, research on recycling markets, study of the state’s waste stream (with an emphasis on wasted food), design and implementation of solid waste and/or food waste reduction-recycling-reuse programs, and education and motivation of the public to reduce food waste. Examples of grant awardee projects with a particular focus on composting include research, education, and implementation of composting at Kean University and Raritan Valley Community College in 2019, as well as $74,000 for composting demonstrations using aerated static piles at Bergen County Community College in 2020.


More Information


Personal communication. Sonia Dublin. Recycling Coordinator, Jersey City. Phone Call. September 29, 2021.


Original post from November 3, 2021

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Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is the Policy Lead with ILSR’s Composting for Community initiative, where she researches, analyzes and supports the building of US policy that advances local composting. Her background in sustainable development and agriculture reflects her interest in solutions-based, community-led development initiatives.