MCSWMA moves forward with recycling project

Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority Director of Operations Brad Austin holds a glass of aggregate material on the left and a sand-like material on the right. These are the two products to come from the MCSWMA’s plan to repurpose glass. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — After receiving a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority is moving forward with its nearly $6 million plan to replace its dual-stream recycling system with a single-stream program.

A $3 million interest-free loan from the Closed Loop Fund, a New York City-based investment firm, and an $800,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy are funding a majority of the project. An increased solid waste tipping fee of $6 per ton, which will begin in November, will pay off the loan, and some additional grants are still being sought for the project.

The replacement of the system is still in the design phase, but MCSWMA Director of Operations Brad Austin said the authority anticipates beginning construction before the snow falls this year and continuing the project in the spring with single-stream recycling tentatively starting in fall 2020.

The ability of the facility to process all recyclable materials at once makes it more convenient for residents and should increase recycling participation, he said.

Michigan currently has the lowest recycling rate among the Great Lakes states and Marquette County has just an 8% recycling rate.

“I think a lot of recycling issues in upper Michigan are rooted in logistics and not having a facility and how far the distance is,” Austin said. “The first step was to get something in the region. Now it’s here, it’s coming, it’s a year away.”

Austin noted that the Marquette County Landfill, located at 600 County Road NP in Marquette, is a regional facility open to all Upper Peninsula residents.

“There are opportunities across the U.P. for people to be involved in this,” Austin said. “There are already a lot of wonderful things happening in communities across the U.P. in regards to recycling. This is a facility that others can utilize.”

As the authority begins the switch to single-stream, its focus now is on extending the life of the landfill, increasing the recycling capacity of the U.P. and education on proper recycling, Austin said.

“There’s been a lot of feedback about wanting to recycle but not knowing how,” he said. “There’s an education component that I think is amiss, and that’s where we come in, I think, not only as a facility but also the authority on here’s how we can do it, here’s how we can recycle.”

With the grant award, DEGLE also launched its Know It Before You Throw It Campaign, an educational initiative focused on informing Michigan residents on proper recycling habits.

“We’ve identified an issue, we see things going into our landfill and we simply feel we can do better,” Austin added.

With the single-stream recycling project comes the ability of the authority to process glass.

Collected glass will be recycled through different equipment than that used for the recycling of other materials. It can be processed into a sand or aggregate material, but it must be separated prior to reaching the landfill.

“In order for people’s glass to be utilized or repurposed locally, it has to be by itself,” Austin said. “If it goes through that facility, we can’t put that glass back into the glass machine because of contaminants. If a resident wants to have their glass be repurposed and utilized more environmentally sound, then you need to separate it.”

Because glass must be separated from all other recyclable materials to be processed, how and when glass will be collected from residents will be up to each individual municipality. This may mean curbside collection or a drop-off site, but residents can always deliver their glass directly to the landfill if they wish to repurpose it, he said.

Austin also encouraged anyone interested in learning more about the single-stream recycling system or proper recycling habits to contact the MCSWMA for more information.

For more information on the Know It Before You Throw It Campaign, visit recyclingraccoons.org.

“There’s a lot of community pride that can come from a program, especially in this location,” Austin said. “There’s challenges here; to be able to bring it here is something that we should be proud of. Our focus now is education and outreach and getting it to work as effectively as we possibly can.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.