We've heard all the New Jersey jokes, and though we might be insulted, we've probably told some ourselves. From Benjamin Franklin to George Carlin, New Jersey has been the on the receiving end of such questions as, “Why does New Jersey have more landfills, and California have more lawyers” or declarations of “the Garden State... if you’re growing smokestacks.”
For centuries, New Jersey has been much maligned for its vital and lucrative role as the dumping ground between New York and Philadelphia. Things have changed though and during the past two decades, we've seen New Jersey, sometimes known as “The Landfill of Opportunity,” take that nickname all the way to the bank.
In the early 1990s, the state of New Jersey created a near monopoly out of the waste disposal business, disposing of all of its own garbage as well as that of the states of New York and Pennsylvania. By 2000, privatization of waste management had become the norm and garbage had become “a commodity to be traded anywhere,” according to Walter Porter, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
Porter explains that, “in 1996, state policy was stricken down in court as being an impediment to interstate commerce. As a result, solid waste now travels in and out of New Jersey on a daily basis.”
According to Porter, New Jersey disposal facilities are highly competitive with other out-of-state facilities and as a result both the tipping fees (fees charged to trash haulers to dispose of their trash, usually charged per ton) and the cost for waste disposal have gone down in recent years. This is grown advantageous to residents and the industry alike. Communities in New Jersey are able to take advantage of low landfill rates in Pennsylvania as well as accept money to handle garbage from New York.