Award Winners

The Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award honors individuals and businesses who have made an outstanding contribution to Recycling in Emmet County. To nominate someone for the award contact Kate Melby at 231-348-0640 or via email.


2020 Pillars of Recycling Program Honored

From our November 12, 2020 media release on the award

As Emmet County’s renowned recycling program celebrates its 30th anniversary and America Recycles Month, its 2020 Recycler of the Year Award is honoring nine pillars of the program. All of the honorees contributed to developing the program in its early days and have served Emmet County Recycling (ECR) for at least 20 years.

Bill Dohm, supervisor of Little Traverse Township, laid the foundation for Emmet County Recycling when, in the 1970s, he took the bold political step of volunteering his township to host the county waste Transfer Station. The transfer station property, which is located on Pleasantview Road, later became the home of the county’s recycling collection and sorting operations. When the county Department of Public Works (DPW)—of which ECR is a program—was established in 1979, Dohm became one of its first board members and continues to serve on the board 30 years later. Dohm is known for always being solid and fair, for reading every line of every budget report and reviewing every construction document, and for always asking the tough questions.

2007 DPW Board and Management

Seven of the nine Pillars of the Program honorees are shown in this 2007 photo: (from left) Arden Bawkey, Denny Keiser, Jack Jones, Ann Smith, Leroy Sumner (Honorable Mention for 17 years on the DPW Board!), Elisa Seltzer, Bill Dohm, and Don Mapes.
Not shown: Max Putters and representatives of Recycle North.

Max Putters, the former director of the Emmet County Office of Planning and Zoning, was instrumental in the establishment of the DPW and led it for roughly a decade before the first DPW director was hired. In this role, he went above and beyond the call of duty in working with residents advocating for excellent resource recovery services. Also, as designated county planner, Putters led the public process of drafting the first County Solid Waste Plan in which Emmet County committed to implementing recycling.

Ann Smith was another pillar who was in place even before Emmet County Recycling was established. First as a County Commissioner and then as a DPW Board member, Smith served for over 30 years, including a long run as DPW Board chairperson. In a 2004 interview, Smith noted that she developed a real interest in recycling and was once described as “getting lyrical about garbage.” She said, “It’s been interesting to see it grow…and to keep asking what else we can do, like electronics recycling.”

Elisa Seltzer was the DPW’s executive director for 30 years, right up to 2019. She spearheaded the development of ECR into the locally popular, regionally key, nationally prominent program it is today. Seltzer often framed her approach as making recycling “convenient, comprehensive and cost effective,” and stuck to that formula through over a dozen major expansions of facilities and services. As Emmet County showed what is possible in a rural area, Seltzer came to be looked-to as an expert nationally and the program was recognized in the National Recycling Coalition’s Outstanding Government Program award category in 2017.

Denny Keiser, Bear Creek Township Supervisor, has served over 20 years on the DPW Board and eight years as its chairperson. He and Dohm were the first local leaders to advocate for curbside recycling for their townships. Keiser has been a member of the DPW Board’s Building Committee through several key construction and expansion cycles. Another widely respected community leader, his reputation has helped ECR through many tough spots over the years.

Don Mapes worked for the DPW for 38 years, including 28 as its operations superintendent. He played key roles in nearly every development in Emmet County Recycling’s history, including the hiring of dozens of employees, purchases of trucks and equipment, six building expansions, and the additions of composting and curbside recycling services. In a 2018 interview, Mapes observed, “We really got more response from the community than we thought we would. Everything that we built, we have outgrown it sooner than we thought. I was the one who had to make it work. But we always get by and get things done.”

Jack Jones, a longtime County Commissioner and DPW Board member, contributed to making the board a solid base of support and guidance. In 1990 and 1991, he served on the Recycling Funding Committee that put in place the innovative approach that supports ECR without reliance on tax dollars. Until retiring from the DPW post in 2018, Jones brought his love of the woods and waters of Michigan, his stories, and even his maple syrup to the DPW Board.

Arden Bawkey, the Emmet County Drain Commissioner, has served on the DPW Board for over 20 years. When the Board was constituted in 1979, Little Traverse Township, the Emmet County Road Commission Board, and the Drain Commissioner were all given standing positions. A mandated board member might be excused for being lukewarm, but Bawkey is known for being the board’s most enthusiastic recycling supporter and is a positive voice, even when the going gets tough.

Last but not least, Recycle North was a major force in establishing and growing ECR. The non-profit operated early household recycling efforts in Emmet County and then advocated for the county taking over and expanding recycling. Serving the area for over 20 years, they prepared a highly detailed plan for a county recycling program in 1985, obtained the grant that funded the county’s first recycling building at the Pleasantview Road facility, and contracted with the county to educate about recycling for nearly a decade.

Today’s director of the Emmet County DPW, Andi Shepherd-Tolzdorf said of the nine award winners, “These leaders have played crucial roles in moving Emmet County Recycling forward through thick and thin, incredible growth and many challenges. They have recognized the value of maintaining waste management, recycling, and composting as publicly run services. And they have supported employing innovative best practices in both policy and operations while steadfastly maintaining cost-effectiveness. We can’t thank them enough.”

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Upon receiving his award, Max Putters sent us a message with great perspective on the lessons of Emmet County Recycling’s success and the following paragraphs honoring others who were involved in the development of the program:

“I wonder too, if it would be a reasonable idea to honor the County Board of Commissioners, County DPW and the citizens of Emmet County for their collective foresight and vision to implement a public based recycling service ?  A huge factor was employing Elisa Seltzer as the DPW Director, which really kick started recycling in Emmet County, a program that forged ahead to an outstanding level of effectiveness, recognized state-wide, and still is today.  The date was 1990 and the county was also searching for landfill sites before settling on the idea of a Type II Transfer Station.  I think it was Dick Bidstrup, a Civil Engineer, who made the motion the hire Elisa, and he served on the DPW.  The point of this recognition is to manifest what can be achieved when the involved parties share a mutual vision, e.g. recycling as a preferred solid waste disposal practice to landfills.

Paul Lenahan, also an engineer, prepared the first building plan for recycling services. He did this gratis and that started physical plant facilities for recycling at the Transfer Station.  Vern Haderer was the first Transfer Station Superintendent and he experienced all the on the ground trials of operating a new public service in Emmet County. Lynn Johnson, County Controller, was also involved with communications to the County Board of Commissioners and funding Act 641 Solid Waste Plans, with the local match. Leading up to the 1990’s, landfills were still the preferred waste disposal systems and recycling was thought by many to be infeasible. Elisa was marching in uncharted territory when she took on the Director position with the County DPW, and she succeeded, probably beyond everyone’s expectations at that time.”

For the full text of Mr. Putters’ message visit our History page.


2019 Award Winners Just Keep Increasing Sustainability: Tap30, Pour and The Back Lot

from our media release June 13, 2019

When David Meikle and Steve Steffes opened their first restaurant in Petoskey, Tap30, they immediately signed up for Emmet County Recycling’s (ECR) curbside collection service. When ECR David and Lindsey show off the Back Lot's compost binspiloted collection of food scraps and other compostables from businesses in 2015, Tap30 was one of the inaugural customers. And they haven’t stopped taking on new sustainability initiatives since! The partners soon added Pour Kitchen and Bar, one door west of Tap30 on Mitchell Street. Then Meikle and his wife Missy built The Back Lot, a bar “with food trucks” right behind Tap30 at 425 Michigan Street.  Each step of the way, as their enterprises grew, the partners and their staff took action to minimize and recover wastes from the businesses. For this proactive approach to reducing, reusing and recycling, the three restaurants and their owners have been named Emmet County Recycling’s 2019 Recycler of the Year Award winners.


As Emmet County Recycling’s commercial food scraps collection pilot proceeded, ECR staff checked in with the businesses about how it was going.  In late 2015, ECR Recycling Outreach leader Lindsey Walker contacted Tap30 sous chef Justin Reyes and chef Brian Roberts to get their feedback. The two chefs reported that they were very food-waste conscious. Walker noted that they used consumer flow charts and tracked trends to be as prepared as possible to control ordering and production based on need, projecting out a year-long calendar based on business and events. Collecting the food scraps for composting (separate from the trash), they reported, was helpful not only because the scraps were composted, but because it allowed them to actually see and track their food waste.  And then the chefs went on to ask if their Handy-Wacks basket-liner papers were compostable! (Answer: no, the wax isn’t compostable.)


Since then Tap30 and Pour have continued to carefully analyze their waste and seek alternatives to prevent or recover waste. They serve on real dishes and are always on the lookout for better environmental options. “We were just talking about how we are down to two ‘waste items’ left: adhesive napkin bands and take-out sauce cups. We are actively looking for better alternatives,” said the group’s marketing lead, Sandra Thomas.


“For David and his team, sustainability is not an afterthought,” Walker said. “They were thinking about these issues before they even implemented the businesses.”


The Back Lot, which the Miekle’s built from the ground up offered even more opportunities for such planning. The Back Lot is open year round, but especially features a large beer garden which hosts food trucks in the warmer months. The Lot is a “zero-waste” business, reducing, reusing, recycling or composting over 90% of the waste they generate. The bar uses glassware and offers compostable straws only upon request. From the get go, the food trucks serving at The Back Lot (TBL) have been required to use only compostable serviceware approved by Emmet County Recycling for composting at their Pleasantview Road Drop-off Center. Walker explained, “We have to be careful; there are plastic forks, knives and spoons on the market that claim to be compostable, but which won’t break down in our piles. We ask businesses and events that plan to compost waste with us to check in before they buy ‘compostable’ service ware to make sure they are getting one of the brands we can process. No one wants plastic in their compost!”


As a result of this pre-planning, TBL customers can simply toss their utensils, boats and plates right in the compost bin with any food scraps leftover from their meal. “I don’t want to misrepresent; there is some waste. But for the most part it is just what customers bring in with them, for example, baby food packaging,” said David Miekle.


In building The Back Lot, the Miekles designed in room for recycling infrastructure—a must on the otherwise tight alley—and put in a cistern to store rainwater collected from the roof. The water will be used for their decorative plantings. “And I just got done meeting with a guy to get a quote to do solar on the roof. In the summer we should be able to generate all the electricity The Back Lot uses,” said David Miekle.


ECR asks everyone to help them thank the Tap30, Pour, and Back Lot teams for their sustainability efforts and to congratulate them on their Recycler of the Year Award win.


For more information on Emmet County’s Recycler of the Year Award or to nominate an individual, institution, or business for the award, visit or call Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator at 231-348-0640.


2018 The Grain Train Natural Foods Markets

from our media release April 30, 2018

The Grain Train staff reduces, reuses, and recycles throughout their markets and—with these bins–invites their customers to join them.

Over 80% of Emmet County households recycle through the county’s system and recycling staff report constantly hearing from enthusiastic residents saying they, “recycle everything!” But even in a community of avid recyclers, the Grain Train Natural Foods Markets stand out for their deep recycling ethic.  Saturday, April 28, the markets—which are cooperatively owned by roughly 2,800 area individuals and families—were honored with Emmet County Recycling’s 2018 Recycler of the Year Award.

The Grain Train’s Petoskey market’s recycling efforts are evident from the moment customers walk in the door:  stacks of blue crates in the foyer are ready to receive reusable old-fashioned glass milk bottles from Shetler’s Dairy in Kalkaska. Just inside the store proper, reusable fabric produce bags made from recycled pop bottles are for sale above the fresh broccoli and beets. (Though even the produce bags off the rolls are made from recycled material.) Toilet paper and paper towel options are 100% recycled content and up to 90% post-consumer recycled.

At the self-serve food bar, waste reduction is encouraged by racks of plates, bowls, and flatware. For those who must use a carry-out container, boxes and cups are ones carefully selected for sustainability and purchased “in bulk” by the National Co-op Grocer’s Association–of which the Grain Train is one of 147 members. As an example, Chelsea Jarvis, Operations Manager, noted, “They just changed the source of the coffee cups because the ink used to print the new ones is more sustainable.” The association’s member cooperatives also share best practices and data, challenging each other to reduce waste and energy use

While many stores and restaurants recycle from their behind-the-scenes operations, the Grain Train stands out for also offering recycling front-of-house, in other words, for its customers. This is difficult because thousands of customers can’t be trained on proper recycling in the way dozens of employees can be. Jarvis noted that putting actual pictures of the recyclable items customers use in the store on the bins has been key to getting the public recycling right. The front-of-house recycling even includes collecting food scraps, napkins and paper towels for composting.

The Grain Train was founded in Petoskey in 1971 and was reducing, reusing, and recycling long before Emmet County took over local recycling services in 1990 and began expanding them. From the get-go the market offered bulk foods—which reduce waste by allowing customers to buy just what they need–and encouraged customers to buy them in reusable jars. According to Dale Scott, who worked at the Grain Train from 1983-1993, customers also brought in their extra paper grocery bags for the store to use and, “We never bought any bags in the 10 years I worked there.” Employees and community members frequently took food scraps from the store home to feed pigs and chickens or to compost.

Through the years, employees and farmers have continued to reclaim food scraps from the Grain Train to feed livestock or to recycle by composting. Putting food waste to the best possible use has been a particular focus recently. With nearly 340,000 customer visits in 2017 the numbers really added up: the stores donated 6,156 pounds of imperfect produce to the Manna Food Project and an even greater volume of packaged groceries; local farmers took roughly 72,800 pounds to feed their animals or compost; and, to help keep up with volume, the store recycled another 7,168 pounds of food scraps through Emmet County’s commercial composting service.

Behind the scenes, the stores recycle large amounts of film plastic and cardboard, and support local suppliers’ reuse efforts, for example saving carrot bins for Country Gardens, trays for plants from Bear Creek Organics, and boxes for Providence Farm.  “Waste reduction and recycling is what we do. It is how we conduct our business. We don’t see it as separate,” said Jarvis.

Kate Melby, Communications Coordinator for Emmet County Recycling, presented the recycling award to the Grain Train at the cooperative’s annual General Membership Meeting, held at North Central Michigan College’s cafeteria. Surveying the dinner, Melby said, “You can see their recycling ethic right here:  at a casual, off-site event, most organizations would use disposable plates, cups, and plastic flatware. The Grain Train went with THE best zero-waste option: real linens and dishes. Love it!”


2017 Recycler of the Year Award Winners Are EVERYWHERE!

Whether you call them the booster, the cop, the nerd, or the czar, most every office has one.  And they’re not just in offices; they are common in stores, clinics, garages, restaurants, and factories, too.  Many workplaces have more than one of them.

They’re those avid recyclers who strive to make new recycling options available at work, educate others about recycling right, and maybe even pull recyclables out of the waste baskets. Emmet County Recycling (ECR) is honoring them with the 2017 Recycler of the Year Award. ECR calls them “Workplace Recycling Leaders,” and is asking everyone to help them identify individuals* who should be recognized.  “Tell us who promotes recycling in your workplace* and we’ll send them an Award Certificate and some Emmet County Recycling swag,” said Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator.

The recycling award is presented annually around America Recycles Day—November 15. The 2017 award was announced Thursday, November 16 at the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event. ECR staffer Lindsey Walker, who works with area businesses to set up recycling systems made the announcement.  Walker highlighted Recycling Leaders from five workplaces to illustrate the concept:


From Harbor/Brenn Insurance Agencies, Ashley Whitney

Recycling Claim to Fame: achieving huge reductions in paper use by using technology, including a web app for customers to access their insurance information.









From Public Schools of Petoskey, Ron Griffin

Recycling Claim to Fame: pairing every garbage can in the new Northmen Stadium with a recycling bin for bottles, cans and cups.









From Polly’s Planting and Plucking, Christopher Benson and Greta Cherrette

Recycling Claim to Fame: recycling everything! Everywhere you turn in Polly’s facilities there is a well labelled recycling receptacle for something.









From Odawa Casino Resort, Aaron Figiel

Recycling Claim to Fame: Nicknamed “Captain Planet,” most recently he has been instrumental in collection of food for composting from the Casino’s restaurants.










From Boyne Highlands Resort, Anne Bischer and Kathy Coyne

Recycling Claim to Fame: taking it above and beyond the call of duty!  They also really make a point of educating both customers and coworkers.









Melby pointed out that a Workplace Recycling Leader may be anyone in an organization, “Sometimes they are in conventional leadership roles.  Sometimes handling recyclables is part of their job description.  But often they are not formally leaders nor charged with making recycling happen—they just care and step up!” (She also noted that it is fine for people to nominate themselves.)


To nominate a Workplace Recycling Leader in Emmet County for recognition, call Emmet County Recycling at 231-348-0640 or email [email protected]. Deadline to call or message is Monday, December 18, 2017.

*Workplace must be located in Emmet County, Michigan



2016 Odawa Casino Resort

Douglas Giem, Steward, with hoppers full of mixed containers for recycling at the Casino and Sally Strauss, Executive Steward, with one of their food waste collection carts.

Emmet County’s 2016 Recycler of the Year Award winner began recycling long before they opened for business. “During construction—begun in 2005—one of the requirements the Tribe had was that everything that was recyclable be recycled,” explained Barry Laughlin, Odawa Casino Resort’s Director of Property Operations. Since opening in 2007, the Casino has been steadily growing their recycling efforts and shows no sign of stopping, earning them the 2016 Award.

Kate Mowbray, the Casino’s lead Wastewater Tech, is charged with heading up the recycling programs. According to Mowbray, when the Casino began operations in 2007, they started by just recycling cardboard, but soon added paper and mixed containers (including plastic containers, steel and aluminum cans, foil, glass and paper cartons). In recent years, they have recycled around 56 tons of cardboard and 14 tons of paper and containers annually.

They also regularly recover roughly 1,200 pounds of scrap metal, 300 pounds of batteries, and 1,000 pallets a year, the later largely reused in Casino operations and by employees. Electronics and ink cartridges are recycled too. Fluorescent bulbs were recycled, but are now being replaced with LED lighting to further improve energy efficiency. (Odawa Casino Resort won a First Place Governor’s Award for Energy Excellence in 2016.) When the uniforms for their employees—as many as 535—were last updated, the old were recycled.

Laughlin and Mowbray credit a couple of departments in particular with the success of the recycling programs. The Housekeeping staff, both at the Odawa Casino and the Hotel, is very supportive of recycling. “When they have something new—for example when replacing soap fixtures—they will come to us and ask if it is recyclable,” noted Mowbray. The Casino Maintenance Department is central to the system, hauling recyclables to the Pleasantview Road Drop-off Center.

The Stewards—essentially a specialized cleaning and stocking crew for the restaurants—have really stepped up for the Casino’s latest initiative: diverting food waste from the Waas-No-De buffet for composting. “If we didn’t have the stewarding department, we wouldn’t have recycling in the restaurants,” said Laughlin, adding shout outs to Executive Steward Sally Strauss and Stewarding Supervisor Aaron Figiel (whose nickname around the Casino is “Captain Planet”).

Emmet County has been offering collection and composting of food and floral scraps to a limited number of businesses the past two summers. Odawa signed up this summer and immediately became the program’s largest customer, diverting around 2,000 pounds of food waste a week to composting. Now the county is beginning to pilot winter food waste collection and the Casino is on board, figuring out all the logistics presented by the cold and ice.

Having the buffet’s food waste collected for composting allowed the Casino to reach a great milestone this past summer: they were able to reduce collection of garbage (handled using a waste compactor, as most large institutions do) from once every ten days to once every 20 days, saving the business tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Discussions are underway about a variety of next steps to increase the Casino’s recycling. At peak times of year, the recyclables exceed the system’s capacity to store and haul the materials. A baler on site has made cardboard storage and hauling more efficient and Laughlin and Mowbray are experimenting with baling the containers as well. They definitely plan to add food scraps collection at the Casino’s fine dining restaurant and employee cafeteria next summer.

Lindsey Walker, Emmet County Recycling Economic Development Liason summed up the Casino’s award win, saying, “The Casino stands out for the sheer volume of material they recycle, but also for the support their resource recovery programs receive from a wide range of staff. We appreciate the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa’s commitment to caring for the environment and look forward to working with the Casino/Resort team going forward, to keep them on the cutting edge of reducing, reusing and recycling.”



2015 The Hosts of Emmet County’s Recycling Drop Sites

Little Traverse Township Supervisor Bill Dohm and Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer shake hands after Seltzer presented Dohm--whose township hosts not only a Recycling Drop Site, but the entire county Drop-off Center—with a 2015 Recycler of the Year Award.

Little Traverse Township Supervisor Bill Dohm and Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer shake hands after Seltzer presented Dohm–whose township hosts not only a Recycling Drop Site, but the entire county Drop-off Center—with a 2015 Recycler of the Year Award.


The hosts of Emmet County’s twelve Recycling Drop Sites were honored Wednesday, November 18 2015 with the County’s Recycler of the Year Award.  In presenting the awards, Emmet County Recycling (ECR) Director Elisa Seltzer described the drop sites and their hosts as “the backbone” of the much-honored recycling system.

The Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award is given annually to people, businesses or institutions which make an outstanding contribution to recycling in Emmet County.

This year’s award was inspired by ECR’s 25th Anniversary.  Thinking back to the early days of the program, Seltzer noted that the drop sites were there from the beginning, first two sites, then ten, and most recently thirteen sites.  “Right out of the gate, we wanted to make recycling convenient for residents and businesses.  With ten sites we had one within six miles of any household in Emmet County,” she said.  Even with curbside service provided to 60% of Emmet County’s residents, the drop sites still bring in a large proportion of the recyclables collected in the county.

Awards were presented to both the owners of the properties hosting the recycling sites and to the township or municipality within which each site is located.  In accepting their awards, many of the recipients shared stories and observations about their Drop Sites.  Mark Blumke, representing the Village of Alanson, accepted the award for hosting the site at their Public Works Yard, describing the evolution of the site and saying the site is so busy that, “It’s like the interstate out there!”

Craig Currier from the Petoskey News-Review–which hosts a public Recycling Drop Site in its parking lot in downtown Petoskey–noted that he moved to northern Michigan from California, the state which leads the nation in recycling, and was struck by the excellence of Emmet County’s program.

Little Traverse Township received special attention for hosting not just a Recycling Drop Site, but the County Drop-off Center which includes the Waste Transfer Station (garbage to landfill), the county’s Recycle Processing Facility, and the Composting Site.  Further, Little Traverse Township Supervisor Bill Dohm has served on the Board that oversees the Emmet County Recycling since 1978. Director Seltzer, in presenting Little Traverse Township’s award said , “Bill’s leadership has been nothing short of instrumental in the development of all our programs over the years.”

Also honored were:

Cross Village Drop Site at the Township Fire Hall, Represented by Gene Reck, Township Supervisor

D&W Plaza Site

  • Owners Koffmann-McEntee LLC (not represented at awards breakfast)
  • Bear Creek Township, represented by Denny Keiser, Township Supervisor and Chairperson of the Emmet County DPW Board and Township Board Member Joe Hoffman

Harbor Springs Drop Site represented by

  • Owners Suzanne and Dennis Hug
  • Marty MacGregor of the Pet Pantry who keeps an eye on the site and helps keep it clean and
  • City of Harbor Springs Manager, Tom Richards

Mackinaw City Drop Site represented by

  • Mackinaw City Superintendent of Public Works, Mike Karl, and Village Manager, Dave White
  • Mackinaw City Village President Robert Heilman

Pellston Drop Site owners, the Pellston Public Schools, and the Village of Pellston (not represented at awards breakfast)

Robinson Road Drop Site

  • owners the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality represented by Charlotte Farner and Joyce Angel and
  • Pleasantview Township (not represented at awards breakfast)

Springvale Township Site at the Township Hall (not represented at awards breakfast)

Readmond Township Drop Site at the Township Hall (not represented at awards breakfast)

Toski-Sands Drop Site

  • owners, the Toski Sands Plaza Association (not represented at awards breakfast) and
  • Bear Creek Township, represented by Denny Keiser, Township Supervisor and Chairperson of the Emmet County DPW Board and Township Board Member Joe Hoffman

and the Emmet County personnel who service the Recycling Drop-Site, represented by Harold Evans and Dennis Themm.


“Without the active support of our hosting municipalities and businesses, we wouldn’t have the successful program we do today.  Recycling truly is a community endeavor,” concluded Seltzer.




2014 The Green Team and Recycling Crew at Petoskey High and Middle Schools

2014 Green Team

Schools generate a HUGE amount of recyclables. Every week, the Green Team (at Petoskey High School) and the Recycling Crew (at Petoskey Middle School) collect the recyclables from all over their schools. They throw out any trash that has strayed into the recycling bins, and sort out recyclables that were placed in the wrong bin (paper in the containers bin or containers in the paper bin), then they haul it all out to the curb for collection. They, with the support of their teachers and parapros, manage ten giant 96-gallon carts a week of recyclables. And they’re always striving to improve their system, with better containers, better signage and more locations. Thank you for all your hard work and persistence!

Green Team not pictured:
Corey Bennett, Alyson Cunkle, Raymond Mueller, Teacher George Armstrong, and Special Education Paraprofessionals Kristi Muller, Ken Provost and LeeAnn Struthers.

Recycling Crew not pictured:
Teacher Melanie Zamarron and Special Education Paraprofessionals Pat Shock and Elizabeth Varga.

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2013 Julienne Tomatoes

2013 Julienne Tomatoes

Julie Adams and Tom Sheffler receive the 2013 Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award from Elisa Seltzer

Restaurant That Has Never Purchased a Mug is 2013 Winner

The 2013 winner of the Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award is a restaurant which celebrated its 10th anniversary this summer, yet has never purchased a coffee mug. Co-owner and Chef Julie Adams laughs it off as, “…because I’m too cheap to buy new!” but the reduce, reuse, recycle ethic clearly runs deeper than just saving money at Julienne Tomatoes.

So where do their coffee mugs come from? Whenever their supply of mugs gets low, they just put out the word—this year in a Facebook post–and people bring them mugs. Sometimes a business or institution will bring them a bunch of promotional mugs, but more often it’s just, “random people bringing random mugs.”

The décor at Julienne Tomatoes hangs together so harmoniously that customers might not consciously notice that the reuse goes beyond the coffee mugs. Tom Sheffler, the eponymous “tomato” partner in the venture, recalls that they got the tables and chairs second hand, here and there. “I don’t think we paid over $20 for a chair or over $60 for a table.” The big community table at the front of restaurant was a gift one of the leaders of the Young Americans. And much of the tomato-themed art on the walls also came to the pair as gifts from enthusiastic customers.

The partners’ frugality does not extend to the restaurant’s ingredients—they’re impeccably fresh, top-of-the-line and, as much as possible, local. But the reuse continues with the incoming packaging. Produce crates for Coveyou Scenic Farm and clean egg boxes and trays for Cook Family Farm are stacked neatly in the basement waiting to be reused. Their maple syrup and honey suppliers—Harwood Heritage in Charlevoix and Indian River Wilderness Honey–bottle their honey syrup in glass jugs which are sterilized and returned for refilling. On the other end, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council uses the restaurant’s 5-gallon pickle buckets for water sampling. Gallon glass jars are given away to happy reusers, too.

Recycling is a given at Julienne Tomatoes (JT). Asked if they recycled the first year they were open, before curbside recycling was available, Julie didn’t recall, “I can’t remember when we didn’t recycle,” she said. What is most remarkable about their recycling efforts is the way they take it beyond simply putting milk jugs, steel cans and the like in the bins. Tom put a picture of their small fleet of recycling bins, neatly set out at the curb, on the “We’re Involved” page of their web site. They have made a point of buying paper towels manufactured by Great Lakes Tissue in Cheboygan which are made from recycled paper cartons–including JT’s half-and-half cartons recycled through Emmet County–and then posted about it on Facebook. Amazed that, “…the kids don’t know,” they teach any new employees who don’t already participate how to recycle. They have repeatedly donated lovely breakfasts for staff meetings at the Emmet County Recycling Center (held at 6:30 a.m. before all the trucks head out). They even pop out and give their recycling truck driver a soda or coffee!

Julienne Tomatoes helps their customers recycle, too. Julie abhors Styrofoam and makes a point of choosing recyclable containers for carry out, even though they cost considerably more. Their trays for carry-out hot entrees are dishwasher safe and reusable, while frozen take-and-bake entrees come in an aluminum pan with a recyclable plastic lid.

Despite their outstanding reuse and recycling efforts, Julie and Tom and their staff are not satisfied to rest on their laurels. The next frontier for them, recycling-wise, is composting their kitchen scraps. A local farmer has approached them about picking up their back-of-house compostables to enrich the soil on his farm.

In presenting JT’s Recycler of the Year Award, Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer said, “Your recycling—and reuse–is as outstanding as your cooking and that’s saying a lot! Thank you for recycling and for your support of Emmet County Recycling.” Seltzer encourages everyone to stop by Julienne Tomatoes, buy a sandwich, congratulate them, and give them a stray mug.

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2012 RoY is Underfoot Everywhere!

2012 Roy is Underfoot Everywhere

Emmet County Recycling’s 2012 Recycler of the Year Award winner has small town roots, but international reach. Travel to any city and the company’s goods are likely underfoot: production one day recently included fire hydrants for Chicago, tree grates for Philadelphia, and manhole covers for Bell Canada. In total their products are used in 140 countries and, following numerous acquisitions over the past 25 years, their operations span five continents. The winner is EJ, formerly known in this area as East Jordan Iron Works. Along with its corporate headquarters, one of the company’s two U.S. foundries is located in East Jordan. EJ also has a water products machining, assembly and manufacturing facility in the area.

While 2012’s is Emmet County’s 11th Recycler of the Year award presentation, the East Jordan Foundry is the first manufacturing facility using recycled materials from the Emmet County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF, or recycle processing facility) to win the award. EJ cast iron products average 85% recycled content. This recycled content includes steel (“tin”) cans from the Emmet County MRF: those recycled by residents of Charlevoix, Emmet, Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties. However these are the only cans used as EJ feedstock because the blocks of cans produced by most MRFs are of a size and consistency that aren’t compatible with handling equipment at the East Jordan foundry. More typical sources include auto scrap, obsolete scrap appliances and steel from demolition of buildings collected by scrap metal yards, like A&L in Gaylord.

EJ has been buying bricked (compressed into blocks) cans from the ECMRF since 2001. Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer remembers developing the system. “When we approached EJ about recycling our tin cans, they informed us we’d need special sorting techniques and equipment to meet their specifications,” she said. “Eager to secure a local market, in 2001 we found a used bricker and had it refurbished. It is still in use today.” The “bricks” are about the size of a microwave oven and weigh roughly 90 pounds each. In 2011 EJ bought 104 tons of bricked cans from the ECMRF.

“We’re constantly working to develop uses for our waste streams,” said Tom Teske, EJ Americas Vice President and General Manager. Recycling at EJ is part of the process as well as the product. They recycle all of their paper through a shredding company and collect cardboard, bottles and cans as well. Hazardous materials like fluorescent lamps, aerosol cans, and electronics are recycled, too. Even their office building is reused: a portion of the headquarters structure was at one time a creamery.

Foundry byproducts from melting and molding processes are their biggest out-bound recyclables. Slag—a gritty, tan mineral material produced in the melting process—is spread on area dirt roads in place of sand to improve traction when conditions are icy. The green sand which makes up casting molds is reused in production, then, at the end of its usable life, a lot of it is used by St. Mary’s Cement in Charlevoix.

From these green beginnings, EJ infrastructure access products go on to green futures. Teske noted that they serve important functions in water, sewer and energy distribution systems. And though the creation and distribution of cast iron products is energy intensive, they are very long lasting. Because of their recycled content, EJ products are often used by architects and engineers to help earn points toward achieving LEED (green building) certification for their construction projects. Their cast iron fixtures are naturally rust resistant and do not require any finish coating. And finally, at end of their useful life, they can be recycled once again
For more information on the company visit them on the web at

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2011 Recycler of the Year: Circuit Controls Corp.

2011 Circuit Controls Corp

Emmet County DPW Director Elisa Selzter (center) is pictured with CCC staff.

Yazaki North America’s Circuit Controls Corporation Named Emmet County Recycler of the Year
Circuit Controls Corporation Continues Long-Time Commitment to the Environment and Achieves Zero Waste

Emmet County has awarded Circuit Controls Corporation (CCC), a subsidiary of Yazaki North America, its 2011 Recycler of the Year award for achieving zero waste in its facility.

CCC, a tier-two automotive supplier, produces connectors for wire harness manufacturers throughout the world. This year they will manufacture seven billion connectors, while creating near zero waste in the process.

CCC is also a highly responsible environmental leader. A Michigan Clean Corporate Citizen, CCC’s environmental management system is International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 certified. In recognition of their outstanding recycling efforts reflected in the Zero Waste designation, Friday, December 9, CCC received Emmet County Recycling’s 2011 Recycler of the Year Award.

“Zero Waste” is a philosophy that promotes product life cycle management in order to eliminate unusable waste. CCC’s Zero Waste initiative began as a corporate directive from Yazaki to reduce waste going to landfills to less than one percent of 2006 levels. CCC has exceeded the goal, reducing its waste stream to three-tenths of one percent of its 2006 level. While truly remarkable, this achievement is part of a larger environmental bright spot. A 2004 survey found that more than 2,700 Japanese companies had achieved 90 percent reductions in their landfill waste.

CCC’s produces electrical terminals-tiny pairs of sockets and plugs that are crimped onto the ends of the wires in wiring harnesses. The wiring harnesses are used to distribute power for the electrical systems in vehicles. The terminals are cut from shiny ribbons of copper by 47 high speed stamping presses. In 2010 they shipped 6.4 billion terminals in approximately 265 different designs, supplying automakers around the world. The facility employs approximately 150 people and recently reported that it expects that number to grow to 200 by 2017.

How does a company reduce waste going to the landfill so dramatically? Recycling is the bulk of it. According to data provided by Jack George, Environmental, Health and Safety Manager at CCC, through October of this year CCC has recycled:

  • 37,880 pounds of cardboard
  • 12,387 pounds of paper
  • 6,849 pounds of plastic
  • 5,780,892 pounds of metal

Discussing the process, George highlighted the role of the local recycling program, “Emmet County Recycling (ECR) has been an important partner in our efforts to reach Zero Waste. With the addition of new plastics and other items to their recyclable list, we have been able to recycle even more. Our major accomplishments in this area have been to recycle label backer (paper) and plastic banding. Additionally, I’m thankful for our growing relationship with ECR and their willingness to explore new options and opportunities to keep our wastes out of local landfills.”

In addition to their recycling efforts, CCC also follows a robust reuse process, treating their own waste water in a closed loop system with no discharge. Their mop water is filtered and reused in a system which captures oils and bits of scrap metal for recycling. They have worked with suppliers to redesign packaging to be returned to the supplier and reused.

The list of CCC waste reduction, reuse and recycling initiatives are generated by employee insights into the processes they manage. Two 2011 additions are filtering and reusing oil applied to the stamping dies and collecting employees’ personal recyclables on the factory floor and in the lunch room.

“CCC’s constant efforts to improve their processes to make them less wasteful are very impressive,” said Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer. “They’re systematic about it and it has really paid off, both on their bottom line and in their disappearing waste dumpsters.”

About Yazaki  Yazaki Corporation is a global leader in the research, development and delivery of vehicle power and data solutions for vehicle applications. Yazaki produces electrical distribution systems, Vehicle Information Products, solid-state power centers, connection systems and electronics. Worldwide, the company employs nearly 200,000 people in 39 countries. Yazaki has been committed to the preservation of the environment for over 70 years. The company continues this commitment today through the development of advanced electric components for hybrid electric vehicles, the promotion of recycling and the efficient use of resources. For more information about Yazaki North America, Inc. and its vision for a greener tomorrow, log onto

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2010 Public Schools of Petoskey

2010 Public Schools of Petoskey

Recycling momentum keeps growing in Petoskey school district

When Denny YoungeDyke was hired as Facilities Director for the Public Schools of Petoskey in 2005, he immediately made his mark in the minds of the staff of Emmet County Recycling (ECR). “Despite the efforts of many parent and staff volunteers, recycling at the schools had been rather hit or miss, but as soon as Denny came on board, he called us up and wanted to take it to the max,” said Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator. “We were in awe!”

In recognition of all the schools have accomplished under YoungeDyke’s leadership, Emmet County has awarded the Public Schools of Petoskey its 2010 Recycler of the Year. A plaque was presented to YoungeDyke at the school board meeting on Nov. 18.

YoungDyke downplays his role and points to Lindsey Walker, who sets up commercial accounts for ECR, and the staff at various schools for the district’s recycling success. “Lindsey has been amazing. She’s always got more ideas to help us move forward and energy and enthusiasm to make it happen,” he said. And he gives a great deal of credit to the school custodians as well. “When I first met with them, I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about it [increasing recycling], but they were all about it. They all realize the value of it.”

Emmet County Recycling had previously recognized the Petoskey school district for initiating a program to pick up paper for recycling on its inter-school mail route and delivering it to the Dunham’s drop site. However, what was collected at each school and how much depended on parent and staff volunteers.

In 2005, YoungDyke signed the schools up for the then-new curbside recycling program to collect the paper. Custodians work with students at each school to collect the paper and get it out to the curb each week. “We make a point to involve the students as much as possible in the process.” YoungDyke said. “The special education departments, led by Melanie Wagner at the Middle School and George Armstrong at the High School, and their students have really taken this on. At the elementary schools different classes and groups have taken the lead – usually the older kids who are more able to lift the bins.”

With paper recycling off the ground, YoungeDyke went on to increase the efficiency of the schools’ cardboard recycling, and soon added collection of metal and plastic containers from the schools’ kitchens. Next came collecting water and juice bottles at basketball and football games. The schools also recycle their fluorescent light bulbs, electronics, and batteries.

The impact has been substantial. In 2009 the schools recycled roughly 100 tons of paper, conserving an estimated 1,700 trees and enough energy to power 14 homes for a year.

Fiscally, recycling and waste reduction have been wins too. In 2005, the schools spent $32,000 on garbage disposal. In 2010, that number was down to $22,000. According to YoungeDyke, Ottawa School, for example, has gone from 12 yards of garbage a week to eight yards a week. And at Lincoln they’ve gone from 12 yards a week to four a week. “We work with Little Traverse Disposal and Arvin Warner, the owner, there has been wonderful, actually letting us know when we’re not using the full capacity of our Dumpsters and suggesting downsizing.”

Lincoln Elementary School brings another recycling standout to YoungeDyke’s mind: Marta Dennis. The school has created a “Simple Six” program to educate students about waste disposal at lunch. And at Dennis’ initiative, the PTO bought a bin to compost food scraps. YoungeDyke helped them locate a used greenhouse to house the composter over the winter. “They haven’t made enough dirt yet, but eventually they want to use the dirt from the composting to raise vegetables and then eat the vegetables in the lunchroom,” he explained.

Asked what’s behind his commitment to recycling, YoungeDyke laughed and said, “My wife, Diane. She’s a huge recycler.” “I live in Gaylord,” he continued, “I come over the hill into Petoskey in the morning and see the Bay. Do we want to pollute northern Michigan? I’m hoping to have grandkids soon and I want them to see the same thing when they come over that hill. I look back to when we didn’t [recycle] and think, ‘What were we thinking?’ It just makes sense. When it doesn’t cost more? Why not?”

Still, YoungeDyke sees more potential for more recycling at the schools. “We’re not capturing nearly all the paper we could. And we could reduce waste more too. For example, staff are starting to get into the thought process: Think before you print. Can I get this information out electronically instead of making copies? We could use a lot less copy paper.” To that end, YoungeDyke authored a Waste Reduction Plan for the Schools which aims for constant improvement in waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The goals are both to save resources and to educate.

“Recycling in schools has a special place in our hearts,” said Elisa Seltzer, Director of Emmet County Recycling. “Of course they’re large institutions and generate a lot of material, but it goes way beyond that. Recycling in schools helps spread the message that this is what we do with discards in Emmet County: we harness them to conserve the environment, supply industry, and create jobs. Denny YoungeDyke and the Petoskey Public Schools have been wonderful partners to work with.

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2009 Northern Michigan Regional Hospital

Hospital Wins Emmet County Recycling Award

“Going green” is all the rage, so it is wise to take green claims with a grain of salt. However, when Northern Michigan Regional Hospital’s summer 2007 Community Connection newsletter said, “While the health of their patients is number one, the health of their environment is a close second for the employees of Northern Michigan Regional Hospital,” they weren’t blowing smoke. Now, their extensive recycling efforts have earned them Emmet County Recycling’s 2009 Recycler of the Year Award. Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer presented the award to the Hospital on Tuesday, December 8.

“I always knew there was a lot of interest in recycling among the hospital’s staff,” said Emmet County Recycling (ECR) Communications Coordinator Kate Melby. “We’d periodically receive calls from hospital ‘colleagues’―as they call them―asking for input on setting up recycling. And if I was at the hospital with my family, whenever my line of work came up in conversation the colleagues would invariably have questions about recycling materials from their department. Now we’ve really seen that commitment come to fruition as they’ve made dozens of changes to reduce, recycle, and reuse.”

Linda Ward, Senior Director of Hospitality Services, gets much of the credit for the Hospital’s recycling accomplishments, according to Lindsey Walker who sets up commercial accounts for Emmet County Recycling. “Linda is a go-getter. She coordinates recycling and really brought it all together.”

In 2008, Northern Michigan Regional Hospital recycled over 50% of the 786.5 tons of waste generated by their operations. Recycling included: 39 tons of cardboard, 1.8 tons of #1 and #2 plastics, 3 tons of aluminum cans, 1.36 tons of batteries, and roughly ¾ ton each of steel cans and fluorescent light bulbs. Paper didn’t go to waste either: 179 tons were recycled with medical documents pre-shredded by a professional document destruction company. In addition, 92.5 tons of stone, rubber and concrete were recycled when the main building’s roof was replaced with a better insulating material.

The Hospital reduced waste by switching from bottled water to washable cups for patient meals, meetings, and events and by encouraging employees to tag their e-mails with a tree logo and the line, “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”

A new needle disposal system prevented 24.58 tons of waste by simply replacing disposable sharps containers with a service which provides ones which are sterilized, inspected and reused. “We go through roughly 200 sharps containers a week,” explained Ward.

In all, through recycling and reuse the hospital prevented 392.3 tons of waste in 2008. That’s not the end of the story, though. “They’re always looking for that next thing to recycle,” said Walker. Most recently the Hospital asked her about recycling #5 plastic tray covers. “We’re looking into it,” Walker continued, “They’re an ideal partner for us to try out new things.”

The colleagues’ commitment to recycling extends even beyond the Hospital’s offerings, Walker shared, “Lillian Hart-Baker organized a shoe drive which collected 1,000 pairs of shoes for reuse through Soles for Souls.”

“We salute Northern Michigan Regional Hospital for their exceptional recycling efforts,” said Elisa Seltzer, Director of Emmet County Recycling. “Changes in housekeeping systems are particularly difficult for medical facilities due to the numerous standards with which they must comply. Despite these very real challenges, recycling has taken off at the Hospital in the last four years and both the volumes they’re achieving and their attitude are outstanding.”

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2007 Sally Bell, Mackinaw City 4th Grade Teacher

Sally Bell

Sally Bell

Mackinaw City Teacher Wins Recycler of the Year

Sally Bell, Emmet County’s 2007 Recycler of the Year says she has not been a model recycler. But Emmet County Recycling is holding up Bell’s efforts at the Mackinaw City Schools as a model school recycling program.

For four years now Mrs. Bell, who teaches the fourth grade, and her students have been collecting paper from the school—which includes the middle and high schools as well—for recycling. After learning about the recycling system, Bell’s students visit each of the other elementary school classes to educate the students about what kinds of paper are recyclable, and which aren’t.

According to Emmet County Recycling Education Coordinator Kate Melby, school recycling programs support recycling in numerous ways: they collect large amounts of recyclables, and at the same time they let kids whose families don’t recycle try recycling and show kids that recycling is simply the way used paper is handled.

Having her fourth graders teaching the other classes about recycling makes Bell’s program exceptional, Melby says. Mrs. Bell notes that from a teaching perspective, “When the kids teach something, they learn it twice.” Melby concurs, “It clearly works! These kids really know their stuff. Mrs. Bell’s class comes out and tours the Recycling Center each fall, and when we talk about what’s recyclable, they’re very knowledgeable.”

At the beginning of the school year Mrs. Bell puts all of her students’ names on slips of paper in a hat. In the order their names are drawn, they choose a classroom to serve for the year. Bell explained that students often choose a sister, brother, or friend’s class. Once they’ve collected all of the paper for the week, they sort out any non-recyclables (which results in more “education” for the class that made the error). “One week we found a stapler in the paper. Of course it had just fallen in, but the kids still got a kick out of it,” reports Bell. “We also pull out a lot of candy wrappers around Halloween.”

When Mrs. Bell began the project, her husband, Patrick, was working in the Petoskey area and would often take the paper to the Toski-Sands drop site on his way. When he took a job closer to home, she took over more of the hauling duties. The new recycling drop site in Mackinaw City—located behind the schools complex—will make this part of the process much easier. With the drop site located so close to the school, Mrs. Bell plans to have the class take the materials right over. As part of her Recycler of the Year Award prize, Emmet County Recycling has provided the class with a garden wagon and a firewood sled for hauling to the drop site.

Bell will also receive a recycled-glass plaque announcing her award. It will be presented at an Open House which Emmet County Recycling is holding at the new drop site on Saturday, November 10. The Open House is from 10:00-2:00. The award will be presented at 11:00.

The new drop site will also allow Sally Bell to feel like more of a “model recycler.” “I haven’t done as much as I could, recycling from home,” she says. “My thinking was if recycling everything [which Emmet County Recycling accepts] is too much, recycle what you can! But with the new drop site it will be easy to recycle more from home. I’ve already started saving plastics in addition to paper. I can just toss it all in the car when I come to work.”

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2006 Roast and Toast/City Park Grill

Mary Keedy

Mary Keedy

Outstanding Food and Drink and Outstanding Recycling

Three Wine Spectator awards at the welcome station just inside the City Park Grill announce that the Petoskey restaurant has one of the “most outstanding” wine lists in the world. This fall, they are being joined by our Recycler of the Year Award, honoring the restaurant and its sister café, Roast and Toast, for their outstanding commitment to recycling.

These days, with a curbside recycling truck picking up each week, recycling at the restaurants is, “a no brainer,” according to co-owner Bob Keedy. But it wasn’t always so. Down Lake Street at Roast and Toast, Mary Keedy explains that the café started recycling right away when they opened in 1993. Staff was always great about collecting the materials, but the garbage cans outside where the bottles and jugs were stored were unattractive, and hauling was a hassle.

Every week an employee would haul it all to the Glen’s North Drop Site. Roast and Toast would typically have a 30-gallon can full of glass bottles and six or more big black bags of plastic jugs. The City Park Grill, which opened in 1997, had largely glass—those award-wining wine bottles! Hefting the barrels of glass into a pick-up truck or van was a challenge and loading all of the milk jugs into drop-site bins was tedious.

So when Emmet County Recycling began offering curbside collection in the fall of 2004, the restaurants were among the first to subscribe. Bob and Mary rave about it: the wheeled collection carts are attractive—important when you’re located on Petoskey’s most elegant alleys—and easy to maneuver, the pick-up is convenient and dependable, and the subscription service is cheap!

The restaurants fill a whole fleet of 96-gallon carts each week: four for plastics, two for glass, and two for metal, along with a couple of household-size totes for paper. But that’s not all: Roast and Toast recycles two yards of cardboard a week (working with their waste hauler), offers 25¢ off the price of a large coffee if you bring a reusable cup, and gives away hundreds of burlap bags a year, leftover from their coffee roasting operation. “It’s amazing all the ways people use the bags,” Mary observes, “gardening, decorating, even making purses and Christmas stockings.”

Asked what’s behind their commitment, Mary singles out saving landfill space. “It’s amazing how much we generate with all of the milk jugs.” Bob, on the other hand, says he just doesn’t like to waste anything: “…energy, trees, or landfill space.” That’s the spirit! And so, a toast to Roast and Toast and the City Park Grill: thank you for recycling.

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2005 The Staff of the Emmet County Recycling Center/Straits Area Services Crew

Drivers & Workers Behind the Scenes Win 2005 “Recycler of the Year”

Ever wonder what happens after you put your papers and containers in the recycling bins at a drop site or set them out in your curbside tote? From there, Emmet County Recycling’s driving and processing workers take over. It’s thanks to them that the recycling system works as smoothly and effectively as it does and, in appreciation, we’re* giving them our 2005 Recycler of the Year Award.
Elisa Seltzer, director of the Department of Public Works (DPW) put it this way,
“The past two years have seen the biggest challenges we’ve taken on in over a decade: we launched curbside recycling and our facilities have constantly been under construction for other new projects. Curbside has gone more smoothly than anyone would have dared predict: thanks to our great drivers. At the same time, our processing facilities were near capacity before curbside began, and the increase in volume we’ve seen (though wonderful) has further pushed the limits of this system. Yet the strong crews who sort, bale, and load the recyclables have been hugely persistent and resourceful and have kept it all moving!”
Read on, to learn more about these people and their jobs…
The Drivers/Transfer Station Operators 2005: Grady Smyley, Pete Kirwan, and Harold Evans, Gary Hickman, John Coon, and John Harrington
They drive the trucks which pick up your recyclables, whether curbside or from drop sites. They also operate the county solid waste Transfer Station where garbage is loaded onto semitrailers to go to the landfill in Presque Isle County. In either role, the service they provide gets lots of compliments.
2005 Recycling Center Crew 1 2005 Recycling Center Crew 2
The Emmet County Recycling Processing Crew 2005: Brian Leslie, Claye Genereaux, Bob Gutcher, David Wythe, and Gary Ericks
This team prepares recyclables to go to factories where they’ll be made into new items. Facing ever greater mountains of material, they remove non-recyclable items from the cardboard, bale the paper and plastic, and load 250+ semitrailers a year.

2005 Recycling Center Crew 3

Straits Area Services Sort Crew 2005: Breanne V., Amy Chaskey, Martha S., Betty Ann M., Jane H., Casie Smith, Norm O., Paul F., and Frank T.
Sorting the plastics and paper before they are baled is their role. They remove items that are not recyclable and sort out the different types of plastic (#1, #2 plain, #2 colors) and paper (newspaper/magazines mix, phone books, office paper, and cardboard).

2005 Recycling Center Crew 4

Temps 2005: Dennis Themm, Mark Freske, Terri Fettig, and Mike Howell
Last but not least, appreciation is due to the temporary employees who have been with us through this period.

2005 Recycling Center Crew 5

*The Recycler of the Year was selected by Elisa Seltzer—Director of the DPW—and Kate Melby, DPW Communications Coordinator.

2004 Ann Smith, Recycling Leader

Ann Smith

Ann Smith

County Advocate 2004 Recycler of the Year

Our 2004 Recycler of the Year Award winner, Ann Smith, has served more than 20 years on the county Public Works Board, which oversees Emmet County Recycling. But her involvement actually extends back over 30 years to when she was elected an Emmet County Commissioner in 1973: the very first document she was handed was the county’s Solid Waste Plan.

In 1982, Ann was appointed to the DPW Board. She’s stayed ever since (often as chairperson) because, “It’s been interesting to see it grow…and to keep asking what else we can do—like electronics recycling… There have got to be other recoverable things.”

Asked about the strengths and weaknesses of Emmet County’s solid waste management system today, she points to the Pay-As-You-Throw provision as a big strength. Before this system was put in place in 1992 everyone paid the same amount to have their garbage collected. “It bugged me that I was putting out one bag a week and my neighbor had about five cans and we were paying the same price. Those who create more waste should pay more.” Paying based on how many bags or cans of garbage you throw out also serves as an incentive to recycle, she noted, “People respond more diligently to things that can save them money.” The combination of Pay-As-You-Throw waste service and free recycling gives citizens both the individual responsibility and the opportunity to control how much they throw away and how much they spend on waste disposal.

Though it may sound odd, Ann has developed a real interest in waste and recycling. She recalls a minister who told her, “You’re the only person I know who ever got lyrical about garbage.” Her genuine curiosity is evident from some of the stops she’s made in her frequent travels: a closed landfill in Grand Rapids, a Minnesota recycling center, the recycling and composting site on Mackinac Island, a landfill in northern California, and a resale shop in Vienna where she snapped up a Geiger boiled wool jacket for “reuse.”

Thanks Ann, for your dedication to resource recovery in Emmet County!

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2003 Mitchell Graphics

Printer Wins “Recycler of the Year”

Mitchell Graphics—a nationally-recognized printer specializing in promotional printing, mailing, and postcard products—was the 2003 winner of Emmet County’s “Recycler of the Year” Award. At their plant just outside Petoskey, it seems there are materials being “reduced, recycled, and reused” at every turn. But what’s more, their commitment to the environment extends beyond their facilities to taking leadership in spreading pollution prevention concepts.

Even before a client places an order, they’re likely to receive cleverly reused materials from Mitchell Graphics: overruns are saved for creating custom sample packets and the company uses elegantly printed boxes of reclaimed golf balls as a promotional item.

When an order is placed, the items are printed on giant sheets of paper and the company carefully places many different jobs on the same page to maximize use of the paper. The scraps that remain, as well as extras and mistakes, are recycled through Emmet County Recycling.

They use scrap sheets while adjusting their giant presses at the beginning of a run. Film and photographic chemicals used to create the printing plates are recycled. The company uses soy-based inks which reduce use of hazardous petroleum ingredients. Leftovers of custom mixed ink colors are saved for future jobs. Owner Bill Fedus, who enjoys woodworking, even builds fixtures and furniture using wood reclaimed from pallets! And this is not a complete list!

Mitchell Graphics’ staff served on the advisory board for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) Great Printers’ Project which promotes implementation of pollution prevention measures and provides technical support to printers. In 1999, Mitchell Graphics was chosen to be the subject of a case study as part of MDEQ series on businesses preventing pollution. And, in the fall of 2003, Mitchell Graphics hosted a pollution prevention forum with Emmet County Recycling.

According to Gary Fedus, General Manager, the family-owned company’s environmental ethic is inspired in large part by employees. He also says these measures make good business sense. “The common perception [among businesses] is that recycling, reuse, and generally being more environmentally conscious is a hassle and costly and that you’re dealing with a lot of regulations. But our experience has been that if you stay ahead of the curve, there are very few regulations, less hassle, and it can save you a substantial amount of money.”

To learn more about Mitchell Graphics, visit

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2002 Carol Simmons of the Harbor Springs Public Schools

Carrol Simmons

Carol Simmons

Harbor Teacher First-Ever Recycling Award Winner

Harbor Springs teacher Carol Simmons was the first-ever winner of the new Recycler of the Year Award from Emmet County Recycling. The award, presented to Simmons at the Harbor Springs School Board Meeting November 11, 2002 honors an individual, organization, or business who has made an outstanding contribution to Emmet County Recycling.

For 12 years Simmons spearheaded school recycling efforts and hauled the collected materials to the Emmet County Recycling Center. Her efforts began as a badge project for a Girl Scout troop she was leading at Shay Elementary, but expanded to the Middle School and Black Bird Elementary. The Harbor Springs program was the most comprehensive school recycling program in the county at the time. Students and staff collect office paper, newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. Kitchen operations recycle plastic bottles, glass, and tin cans. To haul it all, Simmons had to make two trips a week. Emmet County Recycling staff estimate that over the years she made nearly 1,000 trips to the Recycling Center.

This year Simmons shifted from her previous position as a Title I Technician to teaching her own second grade class in 2002. As a result she stepped down as hauler. However in receiving the award she noted that the program continued with volunteers at each school taking up the hauling duties.

In presenting the award, Dept. of Public Works Director Elisa Seltzer noted that the impact of Ms. Simmons’ efforts reached far beyond the shear volume of materials recycled: ASchool recycling programs educate children about the recycling process, give those whose families don’t recycle at home a chance to try it, and demonstrate our community’s commitment to [email protected]

The award included an inscribed plaque made from recycled bottles glass, a set of bins for collecting recyclables, and a gift certificate for lunch for two provided by the Pier Restaurant.

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