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More U.S. Towns Are Feeling The Pinch As Recycling Becomes Costlier

Aug 21, 2019

When curbside recycling caught on in the 1970s, it was mostly about cans, glass, cardboard and paper. That's how Donald Sanderson remembers it.

Sanderson is 90 years old, an earnest man with a ready smile. Every Thursday in Woodbury, N.J., where he lives, he hauls a big blue recycling bin out to the curb. Recycling is close to his heart. "I guess you could say I'm the father of recycling," he says. "I don't know if that's good or bad."

In the late 1970s, most trash just went to the local landfill, which cost Woodbury a lot of money in fees. And the landfill was filling up. Sanderson, who was on the City Council at the time, came up with an idea: There was a market for some of that trash — there were companies that would buy and reuse it.

So Sanderson suggested people should have to sort their waste and put glass, metal and paper out on the curb for pickup.

Many residents thought Sanderson was nuts. They worried their taxes would go up. Newspaper editorials tore the plan apart, and some people let Sanderson know firsthand how they felt.

"They dumped trash on my lawn," he recalls with a laugh. "I would open the door — and they would dump it the night before — and when I'd come out in the morning, I'd see what was there." But, he says, "it didn't really bother me. It made me more determined to make the program a success."

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