New Jersey mayor rides single-stream truck to learn how to improve his city’s recycling rate

Bridgeton , N.J.  Bridgeton, a city in south New Jersey with 5,200 households, now has an even stronger advocate for better residential recycling. The city’s mayor, Albert Kelly, recently spent a morning on the back of a rear-load single-stream recycling truck in the community where he’s been the chief executive for four years.

“What I needed to see was the amount of recycling we are doing in the City of Bridgeton,” Mayor Kelly said. He estimates that fewer than 10 percent of the households on the route he collected were using their rectangular recycling container.

“That means that stuff is going into the landfill and we’re paying for stuff that  shouldn’t be going into the landfill,” he said.

After a safety briefing, Route Manager Ernest Pender said the mayor worked from 7 a.m. to noon and treated Driver Frankie Batista and Helper Eddie Velez to breakfast at McDonald’s on their break. “We let him know what is expected because safety is our top priority and we wanted him to understand that working on one of our trucks,” Ernest said. “He was very excited. He did rather well.”

How Bridgeton can improve its recycling program wasn’t Mayor Kelly’s only take-away from his day on the back of the truck. He also developed a new appreciation for how Batista, Velez and all WM helpers and drivers work. “It’s not an easy job being on the back of the truck in terms of physical labor and doing the job properly,” Mayor Kelly said. “The two men I worked with were very good teaching me what was  necessary to do a good job. It’s physically demanding. To do it correctly you need to be very thorough.”

Photo : Bridgeton, N.J., Mayor Albert Kelly, center, takes a break from his shift as a helper on a single-stream recycling truck with Driver Frankie Batista, left, and Route Manager Ernest Pender. The mayor worked with the WM crew from Vineland, N.J., to learn more about how his community recycles.