State of Recycling Report
Each year the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce asks us for a report on the “state of recycling” to be included–with reports from other institutions in the community–in a booklet distributed at their State of the Community luncheon. Here is our most recent report:
As we settle into 2016, we are pleased to report that the state of recycling in Emmet County is outstanding. Not just in that things are going very well—which they are—but also in that Emmet County Recycling (ECR) is now “standing out” in the resource recovery industry, getting a remarkable amount of attention both at the state and national levels for taking on the industry’s “next big things” in a rural area.
Arguably the hottest topic in the resource recovery (reuse and recycling) industry right now is food waste. Americans waste a tremendous amount of food—roughly 40% of the edible food produced—whether on the farm, in distribution, at retail, or at home. To prevent serious air pollution associated with landfilling this waste and to capture value from food scraps, recycling programs are looking for ways to add collection of food scraps. The food is then used to make natural gas and/or composted to make a prized soil amendment. Only a handful of places in North America have these programs. Emmet County Recycling is one of the first rural communities to begin experimenting with food scraps collection.
In the summer and fall of 2015, we ran a pilot program, collecting food and floral scraps from 20 businesses. The businesses raved about the service and 90,000 pounds were collected during the short pilot. The businesses asked that the program be repeated and we are looking at moving to a year-round, ongoing program. The pilot drew coverage from the national trade publication Waste 360 and on a leading consultants blog, and requests for ECR staff to speak at the annual state recycling conference.
At the same time, there is a national movement to increase recycling by providing recycling carts (similar to those widely used by waste haulers to collect garbage) for households with curbside service. The experience of communities around the country has shown that giving each residence a recycling cart is one of the most effective ways of increasing recycling, both because it gives each household enough capacity to set out all of their recyclables, but also because the convenience and security of rolling, lidded carts brings new recyclers on board. In 2015 ECR applied for and received a grant of $82,000 from the MDEQ—one offered as part of Governor Snyder’s Recycling Initiative–to provide carts to 1,800 of our roughly 7,700 household curbside customers.
The project “went national” when a leading U.S. recycling nonprofit, The Recycling Partnership (TRP), offered us a challenge: TRP will contribute $82,000 if ECR can pull together the rest of the funding necessary to give carts to all of our household curbside customers at the same time. (The TRP’s funding comes from corporations and commodity trade associations with an interest in recycling, for example Alcoa, Procter & Gamble, and the Carton Council.) We spread the word requesting funding and the county, all five communities which contract with ECR for curbside recycling service for their residents, a foundation, and four corporations have contributed money for the carts. With just a couple more “asks” pending, it is clear the project will be funded and we anticipate delivering the carts in June 2016. This project also attracted national industry “press,” this time in Resource Recycling magazine. TRP also uses its partner communities as case studies in their efforts to increase recycling in the United States, so the story of Emmet County’s outstanding recycling will be spread through their efforts as well.
While enjoying the national spotlight, we appreciate that it is the outstanding communities and people we serve that have always kept us recycling into the future. (Speaking of which, we’ve added seven new recyclables in seven years. Are you still landfilling them? Visit our new website at EmmetRecycling .org to find out.) Thank you for recycling with us!