We explain what New Jersey recycling licenses, permits, and approvals are, and how to get one.
Recycling in New Jersey is no walk in the park. From costly operation fees, to the entire approval process, it can be very, very tricky. Regardless, we're big proponents of recycling. It's great for the environment, great for bringing jobs to New Jersey, and helps keep usable materials out of landfills.
A lot of folks get a hold of us one way or another with what they perceive to be a fairly simple task. How do we get a recycling approval in New Jersey? What's it take to get a recycling permit and get my business up and running?
It's a question we've dealt with so many times because many folks out there aren't finding the information they hoped to find online, through regulatory agencies, or turning elsewhere.
We get it. It's New Jersey, and starting any business, especially a recycling center in New Jersey, is going to be a daunting task. New Jersey recycling regulations alone are headache inducing, and trying to navigate them on your own is challenging to say the least.
Fortunately though, we break down the process of getting a recycling license, permit, or approval in New Jersey in a way you'll be able to actually understand.
New Jersey Recycling Licenses, Permits, and Approvals Explained
Let's get one thing ironed out here right away. In New Jersey, there's no such thing as a recycling license. You cannot get a license to recycle because there is no such thing. But, a lot of folks call them New Jersey recycling licenses, so go right ahead and call them that if you'd like.
What we have instead are various recycling permits you can apply for. The term recycling permit and recycling approval in most instances can interchangeably be used, but when you finally get the OK to recycle in New Jersey, you are getting an 'approval' to recycle as per the terms of the various recycling permits in New Jersey.
Here's what your approval would end up looking like when you get your go ahead from the NJDEP:
Some considerations before you get a New Jersey recycling license, permit, or approval.
This is when things can get ugly, for two reasons. One, it takes a long time to get a recycling approval in New Jersey. And two, you'll have to pay the NJDEP a lot of money every year you're in business.
We go over both those topics in these two articles:
I really encourage you to check both those articles out at first to help you wrap your head around the process, and the money at stake here.
But's assume for right know you already know the time and money involved, so let's break down how to get a recycling license, permit, or approval. Here's some things to think about before you get the process started.
Can your New Jersey operation operate with a recycling exemption instead?
Not everyone needs a full-blown recycling approval in New Jersey.
Bear in mind, you can use multiple approval at one facility. For example, you could run a Class B / C recycling center in New Jersey that was recycling wood, brush, and composting leaves.
Can you run a recycling center on your site?
All too often people buy a site in New Jersey, then look for a recycling approval, only to find out it's not zoned for it. Or it's in a protected area (like the Pinelands, for instance). Or there's some political reason to reject your application.
There's a plethora of reasons why your site may not be usable for a recycling center in New Jersey, from technicalities to political nonsense.
Also, a word of advice. If you're the kind of person who's got some beef with the communication, any regulatory agencies, or competitors on the municipal or county level, you're likely not getting a recycling approval. We've seen applications rejected for various reasons, some of which have been out of pure spite for the person or company seeking the permit.
Is your recyclable material from or staying in New Jersey?
Part of the process is identifying where your material is coming from and where it's going. The NJDEP wants to make sure you have a solid source of material, and they want to ensure your recycled product has an end market.
If you don't have suppliers, or plan on shipping your material off to a 3rd world country, the NJDEP is going to seriously question your application, and possibly reject you.
Is your recycling operation thinking about additional regulations?
If you have over 1,320-gallons of oil or petroleum products on-site, you'll need an SPCC Plan.
If you have certain hazardous materials or chemicals you may need to conduct Tier II Reporting, and possibly even TRI Reporting, both of which are done annually.
If you're shredding hard drives you'll probably need an air permit.
Remember, you're on the NJDEP's radar now, so you won't be able to get away without having what you need. Depending on the regulation, you can expect a few hundred to several thousand dollars a year worth of regulatory related costs. From lab fees to environmental training to costs to site improvements to annual fees to regulatory bodies, you can expect to dip into your wallet time and time again.
The process to get a New Jersey recycling liscense, permit or approval.
I hope at this point you're not scared off. While recycling in New Jersey isn't for the faint of heart, if you can get into the business you can potentially run a very profitable operation. Here's the process you'll need to go through to get your recycling center up and running.
Get your plan to open a recycling center in New Jersey together.
You need to have a rock solid plan in place, and you need to make sure it's going to stand up to scrutiny. Do yourself a favor and talk to an expert. Review your recycling center business plans with them and figure out if it'll work or make sense here in New Jersey.
If you can't put together a good plan then you have zero chance of getting your recycling center in New Jersey opened.
Recycling Approvals on the Local Level (Step 1)
You're going to need some form of approval for your recycling operation from the host municipality. Local zoning and local support is vital at this step.
This is New Jersey, meaning get ready for small town politics. Sometimes this step is agonizing, sometimes it's a breeze. There's also plenty of municipalities that try to make the prospective recyclers jump through additional hoops, usually ones which aren't even necessary!
This is the murkiest step for folks, and can be one that can cause you a lot of heart-ache, time, and money unless you're careful and really know what you're doing. Good advice from experienced professionals can be the difference between a flat out NO to getting you on your way (as well as saving you a ton of time and money).
The time it takes to get this step completed takes anywhere from 1 week to 1+ year. We find municipalities usually aren't 100% sure what they're doing, or need here, and can waste a lot of unnecessary time.
Pinelands Approvals for Recycling Centers (Step 1.5)
If you're not in the Pinelands, skip this step altogether. If you are, you'll need a Pinelands approval at some point, and that's no easy task.
Simply put, it's extremely difficult to get. If you're in the Pinelands and want a recycling license, permit, or approval, find out if you can even get one before you begin. Talk to an expert. Don't call the Pinelands, don’t ask your municipality, and don't call the county. They won’t give you the right answer because they don't know. Your best bet is talking to a recycling expert, a Pinelands expert, or both if possible. If you already know an expert ask them, if not, contact us.
Expect a lot of additional time, a big headache, and expect to get rejected.
How Recycling Approvals Work on the County Level (Step 2)
At this step, the “need” for the recycling facility within the county is very important, as well as the degree of local and county support. You'll need to submit applications, attend meetings, and be voted on whether or not you can start your recycling business in that certain county.
If there are any pre-existing facilities in your county, you might have a problem regardless of your location or how great your business plan is.
Not sure what I mean? Imagine if your county rejected a plan for a new McDonald's because there were already enough fast food restaurants in the county. It's idiotic, sounds borderline illegal, but it’s the way the regulations go.
And, if your town doesn't like you, you'll have a real problem here. Remember before I said this process can get political? Here's where being on someone's bad side can get you rejected for almost no reason. The only saving grace about the county approval is if you're going after a Class A approval, this is your final step.
Another thing to consider is that each county has their own quirks when it comes to getting your county approval. Some counties we deal with are welcoming, easy to deal with, accommodating, and extremely business friendly. Other counties are a nightmare to deal with. This is another step where it helps to talk to an expert as they might be able to offer some advice when it comes to where you should consider opening your location. Anyone who's knowledgeable in the New Jersey recycling approval process would be able to let you know if the county your thinking about setting up shop in is a good or bad place to be.
The time it takes to get this step completed takes anywhere from 1 month to over a year. And, if you're going to be denied at any point, it's usually here.
The NJDEP's Recycling Approval (Step 3)
Your last recycling approval comes from the NJDEP, after submittal of a detailed application. This step tends to be the most technical, but in most cases if you get to this point, you’re going to be approved. You'll definitely need an engineered site plan here, and this application can get complicated.
The good news is is that this step is not political, so if you follow the rules and requirements, you're probably going to get approved, unless you have a shady past or bad history with NJDEP.
This can take a few weeks to several months time, but generally speaking if you get to this point you should get your recycling approval.
A901 Certifications & Recycling Permits in New Jersey
When and if this ever changes is subject to debate, but I personally think there's going to end up being some sort A901 Certification styled background investigation into recyclers in New Jersey before long.
New Jersey's Multi-Step Recycling Approval Process
You'll notice above I labeled the approvals as Steps 1-3.
The reason why is the NJDEP and others like to tell folks this is a "2-step process" because most folks don't include the local approval step. Why? I couldn't tell you. It makes no sense to me, considdering that the local step is necessary in order to get to the county level.
Trust me, this is a 3-step process. We've gotten our clients more recycling approvals in New Jersey than anyone, and we know the game all too well.
Your New Jersey recycling permit, approval, or lisence can get rejected.
Be prepared for rejection. Just because you follow these steps towards getting an NJ recycling permit doesn’t mean you’ll get your recycling approval. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way, including local community and political opposition, competitor opposition, other regulations like Pinelands regulations, and more. It can make for a long, frustrating process if you don’t know your way through the maze!
Your best bet is to get help. Talk to an expert on recycling permits and approvals in New Jersey. Find someone who's