CLARIFICATION: The amended S-2306 bill would only require state background checks for salespeople, consultants and brokers in Class B recycling facilities permitted to accept soils. This applies to four DEP-approved facilities statewide, according to Guy Watson, president of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers.
UPDATE: Legislation written to crack down on organized crime in New Jersey's waste and recycling industry is moving forward nearly one year after its original introduction, as reported by NJ.com. The New Jersey Senate's Environment and Energy Committee voted to approve S-2306 on June 1, with amendments, and the legislation has been sent to the Senate's budget committee for further consideration.
As currently written, the bill would expand New Jersey's existing system of industry background checks to include salespeople, consultants and brokers for Class B recycling facilities permitted to accept soils. The bill would also consolidate all responsibilities for the A-901 background check program within the state Attorney General's office, which currently shares those duties with the Department of Environmental Protection. New systems would also be put in place to enable information sharing between agencies inside and outside of the state about the prior records of applicants.
Senator Ray Lesniak, the bill's main sponsor, told Waste Dive in April that he didn't want to "cast a wide net if a less intrusive action requirements will do the job" and was open to discussing the proposals with industry representatives. The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) has been following these developments, though hasn't taken an official position on the bill yet.
- A new report from the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (SCI) found some industry operators are still profiting by dumping contaminated soil and construction debris in unregulated areas, which now pose environmental and health risks, as reported by Philly Mag.
- The investigation identified many of these operators as convicted felons, made possible by "glaring loopholes" in the state’s solid waste oversight system. "Masquerading as seemingly legitimate recyclers, they are able to evade any form of background vetting and licensure simply because no such requirements exist for those engaged in the business they purportedly conduct," the report states.
- The report urges the state to pass S-2306, an updated bill that would require extensive background checks across the recycling industry. This bill was originally proposed in 2011, yet no action has been made to pass it.
While crime in the waste industry is not a new concept, it is one that is possibly avoidable with the proper regulations in place. In August 2016, the New Jersey Senate's Energy and Environment Committee heard testimony on this legislation that would close the loopholes allowing individuals with organized crime connections to operate in the state's waste industry. However, online records indicate that no action was taken on this matter since its original introduction. Aside from the health and environmental risks as a result of this oversight, taxpayers are now on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup efforts.
Criminal activity is certainly not contained to New Jersey's waste operations, nor the United States' for that matter. Illegal dumping has been a major issue in various states across the nation, and in the fall of 2016, the head of U.K.'s Environment Agency said waste crime in England is on the rise, calling it "the new narcotics." While the waste industry in both the U.S. and the U.K. is working with law enforcement to eliminate criminal activity and make the industry more safe, it is clear that more action needs to be taken from a federal side.