- The Modern History of Rubbish in Emmet County
- Timeline: 25 Years of Emmet County Recycling
- Annual Report Archive
“If you said to people now, we’re going to handle garbage like it was done when I was a kid, they’d think you were crazy,” said Paul Teike.
Teike, 52, has been the Supervisor of Carp Lake Township for 10 years. His family has been in the Carp Lake area for generations.
His grandfather, Smokey Jordan, was the proprietor of Jordan’s Marina and his uncle owned a campground that was at the south end of the lake. As a child, Paul rode along on the businesses’ dump runs, “until I was old enough to drive that old truck myself.” As a result of his roles as family garbage hauler and Township Supervisor, Teike has inadvertently become something of a historian of the modern era of waste management and recycling in Emmet County.
“There was no gate or anything,” he says of the Township dump in the 1960’s and 70’s. “You could take anything, anytime of the day or night and throw it in there. Once in a while they’d burn it all [to reduce the volume]. The smoke really stunk, especially due to all of the rotten fish guts.”
And of course, the fish guts attracted bears. “The black bear that held the state size record for many years was shot at the Carp Lake Township dump in 1974. Hawley Rhew got him and he weighed 615 pounds. That was with a bow and arrow.”
The dump did provide a recycling opportunity – if not a safe one – that was especially popular with kids: picking cooper, aluminum and batteries from the pile and selling them to junk yards. “You could walk in with a car battery and they’d give you $4 for it.” But the batteries point to a darker side of the old municipal dumps—which virtually every town and township had at the time: hazardous waste was going in unchecked. “Fertilizers, antifreeze, batteries, paints and stains…and in those days they were all oil paints.” Paints in that era also commonly contained lead. Freon containing appliances were fair game too, releasing the refrigerant which damaged the ozone layer.
“Eventually, we got to thinking that the bad stuff might be soaking down into the ground water. They installed a gate, set hours, and had someone there to keep an eye on things. They stopped taking chemicals. And they quit burning it.”
After high school Paul joined the Army, specializing in fuel transport and serving in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. When he first came home in 1984, the State of Michigan—which owned the land where the Carp Lake Township dump was located—had required the township to close the dump. As an interim measure, the Township was allowed to place dumpsters at the same location, converting it to a “solid waste transfer station.” “They charged 50 cents a bag and about broke even,” explained Teike.
Then came recycling. “It took me a while to come around to recycling,” Teike said. “I remember a friend up in Cross Village was all excited to take her stuff to the recycling drop-off and I thought, ‘if you want to save the earth, you need to go to Saudi Arabia or to the factories in Mexico where they have real environmental problems.’ I’ve been a lot of places and seen some pretty crazy stuff.” But when he did try recycling, he was struck by how much it really did reduce the garbage his family produced. “We didn’t have even a bag a week anymore.”
A tour of the Emmet County materials recovery facility sealed his commitment to recycling, “A theme emerged. The steel cans go to East Jordan Iron Works. The paper cartons go to Cheboygan. The mattresses go to a business in Gaylord. Everything is being recycled as nearby as possible. You feel different about recycling, say a mattress, when you know someone in Gaylord is taking it apart and selling the steel, wood, and everything and putting it to good use.”
2004 was a big turning point. Paul’s mother—who had been the Township Treasurer for 35 years—lost the primary election, while Paul retired from the Army Reserves and won election to his first term as Township Supervisor. He quickly learned that more change was in store for the Township’s garbage. The State told the township they either needed to close the Transfer Station or buy the property. “At this point we were charging about $2 per bag and still losing about $1,000 a year on the Transfer Station.” And, with two companies offering home garbage pickup, use of the transfer station was way down. It didn’t make sense for the township to put more money into the station. “I caught a lot of flak when we did close it down, but it was the right thing to do.”
Paul Teike has noticed other trends in waste management over the years. “There are less and less burn barrels. People aren’t even burning leaves anymore.” The Township now has a site where residents can drop off yard clippings, brush, leaves and lake weeds to be composted. Businesses too, used to burn waste, but have moved away from this. “I remember a lot of them had incinerators out back. Now they have cardboard recycling dumpsters.”
In addition to his responsibilities as Supervisor, Teike works in construction. A job in Harbor Springs years ago gave him insight into waste disposal practices even before his time. They were tearing down one of the original homes on the bluff to make way for a new house and as excavation got underway for the new foundation, they dug into the area where—decades earlier—the outhouse had been. “They moved it just a few feet each year and dug a new hole. What we found was broken dishes and teapots and such. They each had their own landfill—they threw their garbage in when they closed up an outhouse pit.” Though, overall, he noted, people didn’t have a lot of non-biodegradable garbage back then. “You didn’t go to the store all the time and come back with all these cans and packages and stuff.”
There’s no doubt about it: the past 50 years has seen extraordinary improvements in the area’s waste management systems, moving from dangerous practices which heavily polluted soil, water and air to Emmet County’s award-winning recycling program which makes most discards into resources, benefiting both the environment and the economy. As Paul Teike sums it up, “If you told people, ‘we’re just going to dig a hole out in the country and everyone can come and throw anything in it anytime and, then, from time to time we’ll burn it’—if you told people that now, they’d think you were crazy. There’s been a definite progression toward the good.”
A Timeline: 25 Years of Emmet County Recycling
1979 – DPW ESTABLISHED
- The Department of Public Works (DPW) was established in response to the closure of the last dump in the County.
1980 – TRANSFER STATION BUILT
- The Transfer Station was built to offer residents and businesses a licensed facility for garbage disposal. Little Traverse Township hosts the facility, at 7363 Pleasantview Road, Harbor Springs.
- Recycle North, in cooperation with Emmet County, applied for and was awarded a grant of $55,000 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to build a Recycling Center at the Transfer Station.
- The Transfer Station was expanded to include a second disposal bay and compactor.
1988 – RECYCLE PROCESSING FACILITY BUILT
- The Emmet County Recycling Center (later called the Processing Building) was constructed adjacent to the Transfer Station with the 1986 grant obtained by Recycle North.
- The first Emmet County Solid Waste Management Plan was developed, including a five-year plan to implement recycling and household hazardous waste programs.
1990 – RECYCLING CENTER OPENED
- The Solid Waste Management Plan was approved the County Board and the Michigan DNR.
- Emmet County’s first full-time Public Works Director, Elisa Seltzer, was hired to implement the Plan.
- Voters passed the County recycling millage. It provided .25 mil for two years to purchase bins for the drop site expansion (see 1992), a collection truck, and processing equipment.
- The Recycling Center opened, taking on two newspaper Drop-off Sites previously operated by Recycle North.
- The Emmet County Recycling began contracting with Recycle North to provide educational programs and publications.
- 80% of waste collected in Emmet County (primarily by private waste haulers) is tipped at the County Transfer Station.
1991 – NO MORE COUNTY TAX DOLLARS!
- The Solid Waste Ordinance (Emmet County Ordinance Number 20) was approved by the County Board of Commissioners. The Ordinance provides incentives to recycle and reduce waste by establishing Pay-As-You-Throw. By flow controlling waste to the County Transfer Station it levels the playing field among competing waste haulers and allows secondary funding for recycling operations to be drawn from reliable Transfer Station revenues.
- The County Solid Waste Ordinance was adopted by 18 of 21 townships and municipalities in the County.
- Tax dollars from the County make their last appearance in the DPWs revenue column, as the last appropriation was received from the County General Fund to balance the DPW fund.
- Household Hazardous Waste Center Grant of $100,000 received from the Michigan DNR.
1992 – DROP SITES EXPANSION, MORE MATERIALS ACCEPTED, HOUSEHOLD CHEMICAL DROP OFF BEGINS
- The Emmet County Solid Waste Ordinance went into effect, requiring volume-based garbage disposal rates and delivery of solid waste to the County Transfer Station.
- An automatic horizontal baler and a sorting conveyor were installed in the Recycling Building.
- Recycle drop-off sites were expanded to ten locations. Everyone in Emmet County is now within six miles of a recycling drop site.
- Materials collected for recycling were expanded to include newspaper, steel (tin) cans, glass (clear, green, and brown), and #2 HDPE plastic bottles and jugs.
- Emmet County entered into a competitively bid 10-year contract for solid waste transportation and disposal. Waste Management was awarded the contract.
- Household Hazardous Waste Program began monthly collections.
1993 – VOLUME RECYCLED NEARLY DOUBLES
- An additional loading dock was installed in the Recycle Processing Building.>
- Recycling volumes almost doubled in one year – from 1,200 to 2,200 tons.
- The Recycle Storage Building was erected for indoor storage of plastics, glass, and metals.
- A survey of Northern Michigan transfer stations and recycling programs found that the Emmet County facility had the lowest cost for garbage disposal and the most comprehensive recycling and household chemical drop-off services.
- 80% of waste collected (primarily by private waste haulers) in Emmet County is tipped at the County Transfer Station.
- Employee restrooms and kitchen/lunch area were built.
- Markets for recyclables reached record highs.
- Volume of recyclables climbed another 27%.
1995 – RECORD STRONG MARKETS: 3,294 tons recycled bring in $295,437
- Magazines and catalogs were collected for recycling by Emmet County young people as a fundraiser.
- The DPW “computerized.”
- Corrugated cardboard was added to the materials collected at four drop sites.
- ldquo;Office Paper Plus” was added to the materials collected
- The Transfer Station/Recycling Center’s Saturday hours were extended to 3:00 p.m.
1996 – BIG RECYCLING CENTER EXPANSION I
- Phase one of the Recycling Center expansion was completed. The expansion—which was funded by the sale of recyclables in the strong markets of 1994 and 1995—added the Tipping Building (attached to the east end of the Processing Building), the Bale Warehouse, and an in-floor feed conveyor.
- Emmet the Recycling Robot mascot joined the staff.
- An improved Household Hazardous Waste Site was developed, offering better visibility, access, and efficiency. (Previously, HHW collections were conducted along the north side of the Recycle Processing Building.)
- The Michigan Recycling Coalition Annual Conference was held at Boyne Highlands, with the DPW acting as local hosts.
- Greyboard (like cereal boxes), textiles, shoes, and hardcover books were added to the list of items accepted for recycling.
- The recycling facility expansion begun in 1997 was completed with the Recycle Processing Building gaining new sorting and feed conveyors, the sort platform, and storage bunkers and silos. The new equipment dramatically increased capacity for and efficiency of materials handling.
1998 – DEEMED A MODEL RURAL RECYCLING PROGRAM
- Volume of recyclables collected from drop-off sites jumped 25%.
- Presque Isle County’s recycling program contracted with the Recycling Center to process and market the materials they collect.
- Waste industry mergers reduced local haulers from six to three and left only one major national hauler operating in northern Michigan. They were then also the only hauler here which owns a landfill.
- The County Solid Waste Plan Update process, required by the state, began. Emmet County convened its committee. Spurred by the planning process, representatives of 10 northern Michigan counties and municipalities toured the Emmet County Recycling Center and Transfer Station, considered a model rural recycling system.
1999 – BIG COMPOST BIN SALE
- Waste Management’s Cedar Ridge Landfill in Charlevoix County closed. Charlevoix County wastes were temporarily diverted to the Emmet County Transfer Station.
- Emmet County Solid Waste Plan Updated submitted to the MDEQ
- The County Solid Waste Ordinance was amended to improve enforceability.
- A backyard compost bin sale distributed over 500 units in just 2.5 hours!
- Brochure racks were installed on all glass/tin drop-site bins, making recycling information available to customers on the spot.
2000 – WON RECYCLER OF THE YEAR: OUTSTANDING PUBLIC PROGRAM
- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the Emmet County Solid Waste Plan 1998 Update.
- Recycling volumes declined for the first time in program history as private haulers took advantage of high market value of cardboard and sold what they collected themselves.
- An independent Efficiency Assessment of the Emmet County Recycling Facility was conducted by RRT Design & Construction of Melville, New York. They concluded, “The facility is well operated…” and offered seven recommended actions to improve efficency and safety.
- Electronics were added to materials accepted for recycling. They are collected on Household Chemical Drop-off Days for a fee of 25 cents per pound.
- Director Elisa Seltzer received the Michigan Recycling Coalition “Recycler of the Year” Award for Outstanding Public Program.
- New graphics for department programs, including the “e” recycling logo, were developed by Kecia Freed who managed to make even old milk jugs look charming.
- Charlevoix County’s new recycling program contracted with the Recycling Center to process and market the materials they collect.
2001 – CAMP PELLSTON CLOSED
- Camp Pellston closed, disbanding the crew which sorted paper and plastics at the Emmet County Recycling Center.
- A telephone survey of Emmet County residents’ opinions on their recycling and was disposal options was conducted.
- The Metal Sort System—which sorts steel cans from aluminum foil and cans and bricks the sorted metals—was installed in the Recycle Storage Building.
- Emmet County becomes a Michigan Department of Agriculture Clean Sweep Site, funded to accept pesticides at no charge from any end user in the state.
2002 – STRAITS AREA SERVICES CREW ON THE JOB
- The Straits Area Services Crew was hired to sort paper and plastics.
- Republic Waste Services and Subcontractor Poquette Leasing began transporting and landfilling waste from the Transfer Station under a new, competitively bid 5-year contract.
- The Solid Waste Ordinance Administrative Rules were revised.
- The first Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award was given to Carol Simmons, a Harbor Springs teacher who facilitated recycling programs at three schools for twelve years. She hauled nearly 1,000 loads of materials to the Recycling Center!
2003 – TRANSFER STATION RATE REDUCTION
- A rate reduction was implemented at the Transfer Station: mechanically compacted and tipped waste was accepted for $17.50 per cubic yard, down from $19.00 in 2002.
- The Transfer Station’s leachate collection system and trailer staging area were expanded.
- www.EmmetRecycling.org went live, offering complete information on Emmet County Recycling.
- Mini-surveys were conducted on the subjects of construction and demolition debris recycling, recycling in downtown Petoskey, and curbside collection for businesses.
2004 – CURBSIDE RECYCLING BEGINS
- Curbside recycling was launched in Bear Creek, Little Traverse, and Resort township and Harbor Springs and Petoskey. Two curbside drivers, Grady Smyley and Harold Evans, who was promoted from the recycle processing staff.
- The Transfer Station/Recycling Center was expanded to include employee lunch and locker rooms, an office for the superintendent, and a meeting room.
- A prototype Garbage Gobbler—self serve garbage compactor—was developed and installed at the Transfer Station.
- Plans for the next expansion—compost site, bulky recyclables site (including construction and demolition debris), maintenance garage and gatehouse—were developed.
2005 – FIRST ANYTIME CLEANUP VOUCHERS
- First full year of curbside recycling was completed with flying colors. Business customer count passed the 100 mark.
- Bear Creek Township distributed the first Anytime Cleanup Vouchers, allowing their residents to dispose of bulky items at the Transfer Station/Recycling Center (at township expense) at their convenience rather than on a single “spring clean-up” day.
- Annual America Recycles Day tours for all Emmet County 4th graders were offered for the first time. Over 300 students plus their teachers and chaperones toured the Emmet County Recycling Center in the fall.
- Trillium department logo launched.
2006 – BULKY RECYCLABLES/COMPOSTING AREA OPENS
- The Bulky Recyclables Area opened. The area provides one-stop recycle drop off for contractors, incorporating scrap metal and large appliances (moved from the driveway area just west of the recycle storage building) and adding collection of rubble, unfinished/untreated wood, and tires.
- The composting site opened with collection areas for yard waste, brush, and evergreens in the bulky recyclables area.
- The Transfer Station/Recycling Center/Composting Site is renamed “The Drop-off Center.”
- The Gatehouse opened.
- Electronics were accepted year round for the first time.
- Collection areas for oil, antifreeze, batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs were removed from the Transfer Station Drive Through and clustered in and around the household chemical storage unit. The area is dubbed the “Hazardous Materials Recycling Area.”
- Clothing and shoe collection bins were moved from the Transfer Station Drive Through to the area just west of the Paper and Containers Recycling Drop Site at the Drop-off Center.
- A display of six different backyard composting bins was installed, also adjacent to the paper and containers drop site at the Drop-off Center. Four models are offered for sale on site.
- A mini survey of 100 curbside district residents was conducted.
2007 – MORE COMMUNITIES COME ON BOARD
RECORD MARKETS II: 6,186 tons recycled brings in $574,628.97
- Flow control was deemed constitutional and desirable by the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling on the case United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority.
- Wawatam Township and the Village of Mackinaw City adopted the County Solid Waste Ordinance.
- New recycling drop sites opened in Mackinaw City and Cross Village.
- Event Recycling was piloted at eight events.
- Cheboygan County’s new recycling program contracted with the Recycling Center to process and market the materials they collect.
- Transfer Station volume dropped 9%, reflecting the slowing economy and increased recycling.
2008 – FIRST BATCH OF COMPOST SOLD, MARKETS FOR RECYCLABLES SEE RECORD DECLINES
- Carp Lake Township adopted the County Solid Waste Ordinance.
- The first batch of compost from the new Composting Site was finished, screened, and tested. It received rave reviews and sold out.
- Markets for recyclables tanked in the fall as the mortgage crisis caused the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. For example, the market value of #1 plastic bottles and jars dropped 96% in two months (from $270/ton to $10/ton)
- The department received 40 additional event recycling bins under a grant from Coca-Cola and the National Recycling Coalition.
- The First “Big Shred” document destruction event was offered. 615 boxes of documents were shredded.
- Markets for recyclables begin to improve in the third quarter.
- First plant plastics collection event.
- New County website launched with more recycling information and the option of searching for whether an item is recyclable.
2010 – NEW RECYCLE PROCESSING FACILITY OPENS
- New 22,750 square foot Recycle Processing Facility Opens in June – Watch the Video
- New facility allows for simpler sorting–now recyclers sort into just “Mixed Containers” and “Paper, Boxes and Bags” bins. Second totes are distributed to curbside customers. Color coded signs are installed on drop-site bins.
- New facility allows for collection of additional materials: plastic bags, #3-7 plastics and paper cartons.
- We call it all “Recycle More, Sort Less!”
- 20th Anniversary of Emmet County Recycling
- New asphalt shingle recycling is also a hit: 1,621 yards are collected.
2011 – RECYCLING VOLUME UP 24%; SELTZER RECEIVES TWO AWARDS
- With the new “Recycle More, Sort Less” system, total volume recycled climbs 24% to 9,765 tons
- DPW Director Elisa Seltzer receives both the Michigan Recycling Coalition Member of the Year Award and the Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Award.
- Latex paint recycled with ePaint Recycling of Battle Creek.
- 20th Anniversary of the Household Chemical Drop-off Program.
- POD (Prescription and Over-the-County Drug Drop-off) Boxes installed in six area law enforcement offices allow for year-round drop-off of unwanted drugs.
2012 – NEW MATERIALS ACCEPTED AT DROP-OFF CENTER
- “10,000 pounds in 10 weeks” carton challenge. Carton recycling was increased by 50%.
- Mattresses, box springs, and futons are now accepted for recycling, along with holiday items such as gift wrap and greeting cards.
- The drop off center gained a recycled content mural and billboard inside to enhance tours.
- Electronics recycling “All free, all the time.”
- Started to become active on Facebook to convey specific information—new recyclables, upcoming events, holiday schedules, etc.—
as well as to build the brand with an engaged, self-selected audience.
2013- OTSEGO ON BOARD
- Unfortunately, the partnership with Charlevoix County ended, but Otsego County hopped right on board. Otsego’s recyclables are now collected and processed in Emmet County.
- 97% of materials recovered are shipped to factories in Michigan to be recycled.
- Over 1,000 people have toured the recycling facility.
- Oil Filters are now accepted as a recyclable material
- The “Gas to Grass” bill to allow yard waste in landfills was defeated.
- Overcame barriers on hard to recycle plastics due to “China’s Green Fence.” The first cargo container was exported and all materials were moved.
- Bliss Fest Music Festival had 62% waste diversion with the help of Emmet County Recycling
2014- THE YEAR OF TIRES, GOVERNOR SNYDER SIGNS ONTO RECYCLING
- Governor Snyder announced the development of an advisory Governor’s Recycling Council. The goals of the governor’s recycling plan included doubling Michigan’s recycling rate to 30%, increasing access to recycling statewide, and strengthening Michigan’s recycling economy by encouraging market development and improving measurement, outreach and education.
- Tires were accepted for free throughout the summer under a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that covered the costs of recycling.
- The Solid Waste Transfer Station underwent a major overhaul to improve storm-water and wastewater handling. We also reworked the surface of the Composting Site and cleaned the cobble drains.
- We purchased a new curbside recycling collection truck–the first since the program began in 2004.
- A large industrial shredder was purchased and we began offering shredding by appointment on half-day a week.
- All 5 curbside-recycling communities renewed their 5 year contract.