Recycling problems are piling up in 2021

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of News Advocate’s Best Stories of the Year compilation (in no particular order) revisiting and recapping Manistee County’s biggest news from 2021.

MANISTEE – The County and Town of Manistee recently struggled with their recycling programs. With the accumulation of cardboard boxes at a site in Manistee and contamination incidents reported elsewhere in the county, these issues have prompted local officials to seek answers.

Manistee seeks solutions to recycling problems

Recycling and the accumulation of cardboard outside Manistee Catholic Central remained a problem at the end of the year.

Jeff Mikula, Manager of Manistee’s Public Works Department, and Matt Biolette of Republic Services, gave a presentation on some of the issues Manistee and other cities face when it comes to recycling at a city council working session de Manistee in September.

Biolette and Mikula presented three alternatives to the city, one would be to get another fiber truck for the city. Currently, the Cardboard Truck is a partnership between Packaging Corporation of America and MCC, which purchases cardboard from MCC at a loss but uses the trailer as a means to donate and return money to schools, according to Biolette. In order to meet CPA processing standards, this would cost the city $ 10,000 to $ 15,000 more than the current process.

The second option was curbside recycling, which the city had previously but which was discontinued in July 2020 because it was a subscription service and only about 100 people participated, according to Mikula.

The third option was to try to improve the situation at MCC, but the grants helped a bit, according to Biolette. The problem is that the city only controls the mixed dumpster at MCC, the fiber trailer that handles the cardboard is a private partnership between PCA and MCC, Biolette said.

Mikula also noted that the MCC recycling facility is basically open to everyone, and residents of Stronach, Filer and Manistee townships also bring their materials. The township of Manistee disposed of its deposit facility three years ago.

Manistee County joins 13 other states in attempting to resolve recycling concerns

In 2020, Manistee County joined 13 other grantees in the state to help assess usage, recycling challenges and also to fund education efforts to guide residents and site users on how to recycle properly and what materials are actually accepted.

The project was a collaboration between the national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership, Iris Waste Diversion Specialists and the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to conduct research and provide training that has started in July 2020.

The best way to find out what is accepted or prohibited at Manistee County recycling sites is to visit the County Waste Advisor’s interactive research website where residents can research if their items are recyclable and which particular sites accept. articles in the county.

the The website also allows users to suggest an item to add to the database.

Contaminated Manistee County recycling sites, ruined recyclable trucks

Loads of otherwise reusable materials collected in Manistee County are ending up in landfills more frequently due to contamination and costing the county thousands of dollars.

The culprit is used motor oil, which was illegally dumped at recycling sites across the county, as was reported in June.

Motor oil can seep from its containers and coat recyclable materials, making them untreatable. Even empty oil containers can spoil a recycling load, according to Sarah Archer, Manistee County recycling coordinator.

“Oil can do a lot of damage very quickly because it’s a liquid and it spreads pretty quickly through recycling,” Archer said. “It’s also not a material that the recycling facilities want out there, so unfortunately it has to be landfilled.”

Authorities are reporting a substantial increase in contaminated recyclables in 2021 due to improper disposal of motor oil. Four such incidents took place in 2021, up from just two in the previous five years, Archer said.

Archer reported that half of the recyclables collected in April were disposed of as waste due to the contamination.

The matter is costly as well as wasteful. Archer estimated that more than $ 3,000 had been spent due to the oil contamination in the past two months.

MCC Halts Cardboard Collection Routes As Trailer Recycling Problems Continue

Between people dropping items that shouldn’t be left in the cardboard trailer, leaving the cardboard outside the trailer when full, and not stacking recyclables properly in the trailer, MCC had its hands full to keep everything clean and organized in March.

For this reason, the school ended its cardboard collection routes in March, in order to focus volunteer efforts on keeping the trailer clean and properly packed.

“We’re sort of reallocating our volunteer resources. Thursday was the last day we made our routes to pick up local businesses,” manager Jeremie Solak said at the end of March. “Instead of having volunteers on the road going everywhere, we’ll have them in tow to make sure everything is packed properly.”

The MCC recycling trailer has seen much more use since Manistee City Council approved a deal with the school to move operations from Glocheski Drive to MCC.

Staff and students take pride in their campus, and the cardboard and paper piling up outside the recycling trailer isn’t the look MCC wants.

“It kind of reflects school badly,” said Jake Charette, MCC’s recycling program manager. “People stop and they’ll see cardboard and paper in the parking lot, and they’ll say, ‘What’s going on here?’”

The school asks people to refrain from leaving their boxes in the parking lot if the trailer is full.