Starting a recycling business in New Jersey.

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Jan 28, 2015

Time to Read 9 Minutes

We explain how to start a recycling business in New Jersey.

Today, it seems like both the economy and recycling are on the upswing in most places, including here in New Jersey. We have been getting a ton of calls and questions from people interested in starting a recycling business in New Jersey. They want to know what the process is and what do they need to do to get up and running. Since the process is so complicated, these are great questions to get answers to before you get started.

I've seen it before, someone who didn't know what they were doing, began the process, and after a year or more of wasting time and money without results, they reach out to us for help. A little knowledge at the very beginning would have saved someone a whole lot of time, money and aggravation, and probably meant that they'd be running their recycling business a lot earlier.

So, here, we'll provide an overview of what needs to be done, as well as some suggestions on how to make this process quicker and easier.

Starting a recycling business in New Jersey

So you're interesting in starting a recycling business in New Jersey.

First off, as a Garden Stater myself, let me be the first to thank you! If you didn't know it, we have probably the toughest, most complicated, convoluted, and expensive process in the entire country to start a recycling business. So thank you for your nerve and intestinal fortitude, and I applaud your interest!

So what do you need to do? Let's go over some of the basics:

To start a recycling business in New Jersey you might need a lawyer.

Maybe. Depending on your situation you may, or may not need legal aid. We've possibly gotten more New Jersey recycling approvals in New Jersey than anyone else and usually we don't have a lawyer by our side, but no two recycling centers are ever the same. There are times when they're needed, but not always.

A word of advice: if you're looking to start a metal or auto recycling business in New Jersey get some legal aid, since the regulations on metal recycling are an absolute nightmare to dig through.

Starting a recycling business in new Jersey means understanding a lot of regulations.

If you think it's going to be quick, easy, or cheap to start up a recycling center in New Jersey, forget it. You're in the wrong state.

Understand from the start that this is going to take time, be more complex than you'll probably be able to handle on your own, and going to cost you money. Possibly a lot more money than you anticipated, which we discuss in how much do New Jersey recycling permits & approvals cost?

You'll need a lot of time to get your recycling center up & running.

Want to be running a recycling business in New Jersey next month? Not going to happen.

For a lucky few there are New Jersey recycling exemptions, but not everyone can use them, and they have pretty serious restrictions.

For most, the process of getting an approval will take anywhere between 12 and 24 months, or even more, sorry to tell you. Twelve months is possible under very unusual circumstances and I guess it can be done in the simplest of cases, but that's very rare. For most, this process will take 18-24+ months from start to finish. So plan accordingly. We go over this in-depth in our article on how long does it take to get a recycling approval in New Jersey?

You're going to need help with opening up a recycling center.

For the record, I have never met with anyone in New Jersey with a recycling center approval who's gone through the process on their own.

The process is just too long, hard, and complicated.

There are a lot of things to be dealt with which require a pretty good understanding of the regulations, and a lot of tricks that can be used to make the process go quicker.

Do yourself a favor, hire someone with experience. Don't use your local buddy who's never done one before unless you want to pay him to learn on the job, bungle the process, and cost you a lot of unnecessary time and money. If you have plenty of time & money to spare, that's fine. But for the rest of you, get professional help from the beginning.

The right location is necessary to start a recycling center in New Jersey.

The right site can help immeasurably!

I really, really advise holding off on buying or leasing property until we can fully evaluate the potential for a recycling cetner. Although it might look like the perfect location to you, it might just not be approvable. Things like local opposition and zoning issues can crush your recycling business plans before they even get off the ground.

What are you going to do then, open a deli? Not all sites will be suitable for any type of recycling, which we discuss in an article called New Jersey Recycling Permits & Classes of Recyclable Materials.

You'll need thick skin to open up a recycling center in New Jersey.

Get ready to hear "no way" from neighbors, community members, municipality leaders, county freeholders, competitors, etc.

You're going to face a lot of opposition. Everything from angry soccer mom's yelling about how you'll pollute the air & water to environmentalists going on about species you'll be displacing.

I can't tell you the number of times we've been told by clients "don't worry about it, we've got the local situation covered, everyone loves us!" only to find out that's completely not the case.

Better take a long look at yourself in that mirror right now, since if your town, county, neighbors, or whoever don't like you or your business, you're probably not going to get approval to open up a recycling center. This process can be VERY political, and if someone doesn't like you or want you around, prepare to get rejected before we even get to talk to the NJDEP.

Here's how to start your business & open up a recycling center New Jersey.

This is the quick & dirty version of how you go about getting through the process. Here's the process we'll need to go through to get you a recycling approval in New Jersey:

You're recycling center will need to adhere to local zoning & other regulations.

This is where the process is really murky, so be very careful here. Make sure you're in conformance with local zoning, and that you are in very, very good standing with your town, township, or municipality. If they don't want you, you're done before you even try.

The amount of time here is highly variable, based on what we might need to do. Sometimes it's a matter of days, sometimes it's a matter of months. We've found a lot of recycling approvals get hung up at this stage because local governments simple don't know what they're doing.

Recycling centers in New Jersey need to be included in the county's Solid Waste Management Plan.

Consider this your county approval. With few exceptions, the county will want some form of confirmation that your town is okay with you proceeding with your application, so if there's a local problem, you're in trouble here.

Oddly enough, the counties are supposed to evaluate our application based on the need for your recycling operation in the county. Meaning, if there are one or more competitors in that county already, you might not get approved. It's like if McDonalds got denied from opening a restaurant because a White Castle and Burger King were already in town. I don't get how they can do this, but welcome to New Jersey.

They also go beyond that and look at things like environmental impacts.

Or, if a freeholder lives down the street from your proposed new facility, and they don't want the noise, traffic, or hassle of living near an industrial facility, you can get denied. This is extremely political sometimes, which can be a huge hassle.

This step can take anywhere between a month or so to over a year. This is where most potential facilities get shot down.

The NJDEP has final say in whether or not your recycling business gets off the ground.

I usually tell clients if I can get you to this step, I can get you approved, and I've never been wrong on that yet...

This step is the most technical, and will likely take 6-12 months or so. Fortunately, these folks are more technical and less political than other steps, so if we get to the NJDEP, you should feel pretty secure you'll get what you're looking for.

If you're in the Pinelands, you're in for a rough ride.

Simply put, if your facility is going to be opened in the Pine Barrens, expect a lot of time, money and headaches. You'll need a special "approval" from Pinelands representatives, and traditionally they're very against the idea of virtually any new industrial activities in the Pines.

If you are in the Pinelands, get in touch with some expert advice ASAP befure you get too deep in the process.

Different fees and permits are going to apply to every recycling center in New Jersey.

Remember above I said something about the fees to the NJDEP? If you missed it here's the link again. In short, there's going to be fees for submitting an application, annual fees, renewal fees, modification fees, etc. etc.

You'll also need an NJPDES stormwater permit, air permits, possibly an SPCC plan if you have oil or petroleum on-site, and maybe more from the NJDEP, not to mention OSHA and the usual business regulations. We cover which NJ stormwater permit does a recycling facility need? more in depth in another article.

Start a recycling business in New Jersey

I STILL want to start a recycling business in New Jersey

If you have the stomach to get through all that, then you will have successfully started a recycling business in New Jersey! Congratulations!

I'm going to be honest, this isn't easy, and it's not a guarantee. I've seen plans go up in smoke because a politically connected person lived around the corner from a proposed facility, and didn't want to hear, see, or be impacted by the business. I've also seen counties tell folks no because a facility was already operating and they just didn't see the need for another recycling business in their county.

It's not fair, it's overly complicated, and quite frankly, sometimes it's total BS how the government treats people looking to start a recycling business in New Jersey. You would think additional tax revenue, new jobs, etc., would be a no-brainer, but you'd be wrong. I discuss some serious issues with recycling in New Jersey in an article called NJ Recycling Permits, Exemptions, and Why Recycling in NJ is Broken which is worth a read if you're serious about getting into the business.

Are you sure you're still interested? If so, why not take the best first step and give us a call at 609-693-8301 or click here to contact us for recycling help. We'll walk you through the process, and trouble-shoot your idea right up front. At least you'll know where you're headed, for better or worse.

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