Monroe Township, N.J., does not shy away from recycling. Between 2000 and 2006, 680,000 tons of the 898,000 tons of solid waste produced by the township were recycled, saving the 36,000-resident community more than $37 million. The township is located in Middlesex County, which also recycled more than any other county in New Jersey for two years in a row and has surpassed the state's yearly recycling goal 10 times. That success could partially be attributed to the township's — and county's — environmental education programs, such as school presentations for third through sixth grade students, says Wayne Horbatt, superintendent of the Monroe Township Public Works Department, which handles the community's solid waste. Young children, Horbatt says, are extremely interested in how they can help the environment. “Kids at that age, they're more receptive to [our recycling message].”
In late June — equipped with a $10,000 grant from the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste Management that was matched by the township in the form of labor, materials and other assistance — the township unveiled the “Enviro-Mobile,” a 24-foot long trailer that travels throughout the community to teach residents about recycling and environmental responsibility. Designed by public works employee Joe Slomian, the trailer features a double side door with a ramp and railing through which as many as 30 children can enter the trailer at once and view nine interchangeable 5-foot by 3-foot panels detailing the effects of pollution on stormwater, energy conservation tips and proper yard waste disposal.
The trailer was purchased empty and outfitted using reusable materials, including metal and wood taken from an old stage. An AV system shows films about the environment. Games, including a “green” version of the game show “Jeopardy,” also are included. “This is an ingenious way to deliver valuable, up-to-date environmental information to people of all ages,” said Monroe Township Mayor Richard Pucci, in a press release. “I'm sure the Enviro-Mobile will build excitement and encourage residents to go ‘green.’”
Horbatt agrees. “It's all educational,” he says. “If we can educate all the people to do their part, we'll be better off for it.”
The Enviro-Mobile already has turned up at several local events. Employees pass out recycling literature and items, such as reusable shopping bags, pencils manufactured from recycled materials, T-shirts and hats. Horbatt notes that the Enviro-Mobile also will appear at the county's paper shredding and thermometer swapping events. But he emphasizes that it is at schools where the trailer is most effective.
“If [the children] go home and they tell mom and dad, ‘don't throw that can in the garbage,’ we save a can and the aluminum goes back in and other products are made out of it,” Horbatt says. “We benefit the earth. We benefit everybody, really.”