ESCANABA - Many area residents are doing their part for the environment by recycling, but free recycling through the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority could soon become a thing of the past.
"By (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) rule, if you start processing more than 10 percent of your stream as waste, then it changes the rules," authority Manager Don Pyle said.
Delta Wide Recycling, the recycling branch of the authority, operates on a single stream system, meaning that all recyclables are placed in a single bin and are sorted by hand as they pass on a conveyer belt. During this process, recyclable materials are grouped and non-recyclable items are removed.
Workers from Lakestates Industries sort recyclables at the Delta Wide Recycling recycling center recently. With the amount of trash being recycled by residents increasing, Delta Wide Recycling might need to charge for recycling services. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Ilsa Matthes)
The DEQ does not require single stream recycling facilities to be licensed as long as the amount of non-recyclable refuse is lower than 10 percent of the total amount of material processed. However, if the 10 percent maximum is met or exceeded, the center must be licensed and meet different regulatory requirements.
"I can tell you, we are beginning to approach that 10 percent," Pyle said.
If the center passes the limit it will be reclassified as a municipal waste processing facility. Both the license and the administrative costs of operating a facility that is classified this way could cause the DSWMA to begin charging for recycling services.
Pyle said he hopes that reclassification and licensure can be avoided.
"We need the help of cities to accomplish that, because near half of the recycling we receive comes from cities," he said.
"Our goal here is not to point fingers and say, 'oh, it's your fault' or 'it's your fault,' " he said. "Our goal is to say, 'we don't want to go down this road and we need to work with everyone to accomplish that.' "
Residents are asked to only recycle aluminum cans, steel food cans, steel aerosol cans, No. 1 and 2 plastics, and paper products and cardboard that are not contaminated with food or oil. Carbon paper, tissue paper, wax paper, wax-coated cardboard, soda cartons, paper towels, milk cartons, cereal boxes and glass cannot be recycled at the facility.
"When you go to a single stream system glass just can't be a part of that," Pyle said.
When glass is included in recycling bins and breaks, he said shards of glass contaminate paper and other recyclables, becoming a danger to the workers who sort the materials by hand.
The materials the recycling center does accept account for about 75 percent of recyclable materials used in an average household.
For more information about the authority or the recycling center, visit the website at www.dswma.org.