Emmet County Recycling grows as model for others

Matt Mikus (231) 439-9394 – mmikus@petoskeynews.com

Jun 6, 2016

The effort by the Emmet County Recycling program to provide 7,700 rolling carts to all curb-side customers is another qualification in a growing reputation for rural communities around the country.

The county recycling program received enough funding to cover the $324,478 through 15 different partnerships including local governments, community foundations and corporations.

But the unique approach of asking companies to pay for the project is grabbing the attention from federal nonprofits like The Recycling Partnership. Especially since every entity the county approached for help agreed to provide some funding.

“Reaching out to community members and businesses that care about the environment or need the feedstock, or care about the environment and trying to be good corporate citizens, reaching out to those folks is a model that other communities around the country can clearly follow all over the country. Emmet County is a great example of hitting the streets, trying to get these carts funded. Because it’s not easy to do it just with public dollars,” said Cody Marshall of The Recycling Partnership, a firm based in Washington D.C.

Marshall said recycling in rural communities is often more challenging than in cities because of the economics of scale.

“The biggest cost for any recycling program is the collection. Cities make more sense, because they’re dense, the recycling carts in each driveway are back to back. The more driving distance, the more fuel and driving time and employees on the road, are typically adding more costs with rural collections,” said Marshall.

One of the partners includes Tabb Packaging Solutions of Plymouth in Wayne County, a corporation that purchases recycled bottles to process and sell the plastic.

“We’ve known Emmet County for a while, and we heard about the project they were working on, and it was a no-brainer to get involved in the project. To us, encouraging recycling and recycling education is important to us,” said Brittany Young, owner and manager of Tabb Packaging Solutions.

Brian Burke with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality oversees recycling and waste reduction for Northern Michigan. The state department has recognized Emmet County’s recycling program for having some of the best practices and policies.

“We awarded a grant for the community prevention programs, for a best practice within Michigan. We’ve identified the practices they’ve implemented that they’re one of the best rural recycling programs in Michigan,” Burke said.

Burke added communities that have a similar recycling program, like Marquette, may look at Emmet County to consider finding partnerships to help expand to new rolling carts. These carts can allow recycling customers to have three times the capacity for storing recyclable material, which helps to increase the amount of material collected rather than pitched in the garbage.

“Studies show that if there’s no more room in a recycling bin, then that item ends up in the trash. Now we’re providing everyone more space to store more material,” said Elisa Seltzer, director of the Emmet County Department of Public Works.

The new rolling carts are expected to be delivered starting June 20, with all carts distributed by June 30.

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