MCSWMA facility undergoing changes

Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority Director Brad Austin talks about operational improvements and recycling goals during a recent tour of the facility. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE–The Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority in Sands Township is laying the groundwork for safer and more efficient operations.

The authority recently began construction on a $2.15 million project to construct an administration and materials management building near the front gate of the facility.

The cost of the project, which will be funded by a 20-year loan at 3.5 percent from Honor Credit Union, consists of $797,000 for a new entrance to the facility; roughly $1.1 million for the construction of the new administrative building; and around $253,000 for the purchase of scale equipment.

The configuration of the new scales, which will accommodate incoming and outgoing vehicles, will divert customer traffic away from the daily operational areas, officials say.

In addition, the new building will improve efficiency in materials management as well as provide space for the MCSWMA board to hold its monthly meetings on site, MCSWMA Director Brad Austin said.

In the end, the project will provide multiple benefits to both the facility and the Marquette County residents and businesses that use it.

“The entire project is rooted in improved safety, efficiency of the operation as a whole, and increased residential access to recycling. It will improve the operational flow,” Austin said. “We get a lot of traffic out here, 90 to 120 trucks daily in the summertime, so having the in and out scales is a benefit so that we don’t have traffic backing up.”

Austin said the construction, which could last until December due to a late start in the construction season, should have little impact on current activities at the facility.

“It is really more of an access thing,” Austin said. “It’s a little bit inconvenient just because of where it’s located, but as far as landfill operations, there is little to no impact. The construction is up front and away from the actual landfill operations, so once we get them in here and get them on the scale, generally it’s business as usual.”

In addition to the scale improvements, Austin said the materials management aspect of the project will provide a one-stop recycling shop for Marquette County residents.

Accepted items would include non-traditional curbside recyclables such as electronic waste, batteries, appliances and confidential documents.

He said officials are exploring the opportunity to add other items, such as mattresses, latex paint and textiles, in an effort to keep more material out of the landfill.

“We are trying to attack it in pieces because, you know, there is significant investment that needs to be made, but it is all rooted, first of all, in safety, improvements to the facility, efficiency and access to recycling — which we all want,” Austin said.

MCSWMA Chairman Randall Yelle said the improvements mark the first step in a long-term investment in landfill operations. The second piece is recycling.

“The single big thing that needs to be considered to make the investment to go to single-stream requires getting more participation and more product from the constituent municipalities,” Yelle said.

Currently residents of the landfill’s 23 constituent municipalities participate in dual-stream recycling, in which pickup schedules alter each week between fiber materials, such as paper, and rigids, like plastics and metals. The single-stream model would allow all types of recyclable material to be picked up every week.

Ultimately, Austin said the new facility and future efforts to improve the recycling program are two separate projects, with the authority board pursuing modifications to an existing structure at the landfill to house the single-stream recycling equipment.

Yelle said the authority board at its next meeting will consider whether to fund a feasibility study which would determine the future of recycling at the facility.