HOWARD CITY — This village was the location of Montcalm County’s first 24/7 unmanned recycling site starting in November 2011.
The pilot program was such a success that county officials approved creating six additional sites in Carson City, Crystal, Edmore, Lakeview, Montcalm Township and Stanton last August.
“We had good results and volumes and participation increased due to 24/7 access and contamination was minimal,” said Montcalm County Resource Recovery Coordinator Jacob Rytlewski.
A total of 591,760 pounds of recyclables were collected at the county’s seven locations last year. The Howard City site alone had 304,300 pounds of recyclables collected. Montcalm County recyclables ended up comprising 2 percent of Kent County’s collected recyclables last year at the Kent County Recycling Center where sorting takes place.
However, last summer and autumn, people began abusing the Howard City site. Recyclables were left on the ground even though there was space in the recycle bins. Nonaccepted items were left at the site, including electronics, tires and even food and regular household trash. Wrapping paper became a major problem around Christmastime, in spite of signs clearly stating what can and can’t be recycled.
According to Rytlewski, several individuals were found to be illegally dumping household trash and were confronted. They were told if they were found violating the site again they would be prosecuted.
On Feb. 26, a sign was placed at the recycle site stating that the site will be shut down on April 15 if the abuse does not stop.
“The goal here is to let users of the site know that they have a month-plus to clean up their act and to follow the rules,” Rytlewski said. “I am certain that the majority of people are following the rules and just want to recycle, but unfortunately some are disregarding them.
“If, in the next month, the riffraff stops and the site is clean and free of blatant abuse, the sign will come down and the site will remain open,” he said. “However, if on April 15 there is no improvement, I will be forced to make the unpopular decision to suspend the site.”
Howard City Municipal Services Director Michael VanWagner said the recycling site has proven to be very popular in the Panhandle area and he himself enjoys using it for recyclables.
“Unfortunately it only take a few bad apples to spoil the whole thing,” he said. “It’s disconcerting that it’s being abused. Some people just can’t be responsible.”
VanWagner and his employees have taken it upon themselves to maintain the recycling site from falling into complete disarray. He estimates he and his employees, as well as court-mandated community service workers, spend at least five hours per week cleaning up the site, even though the village is not required to maintain the location.
“From what I see, it’s computer housings, old TV housings and just plain, regular household trash that people would leave,” he said. “We’ve picked up furniture out there before. The village really has no vested interest in the thing, we just kind of took it under our wing to help keep it clean to help the community. It’s one of our little pet projects.”
Due to Howard City’s proximity to Kent County, Mecosta County and Newaygo County, VanWagner believes it’s not just Montcalm County residents who are abusing the site, especially on “Wacky Wednesday,” the popular weekly sale at Leppink’s. Howard City’s recycling site is located in the Leppink’s parking lot.
The six other recycling sites in Montcalm County have had some issues with non-recyclable items being dropped off, “but overall the remainder of the sites have been respected,” Rytlewski said.
For more information about recycling options in Montcalm County, visit montcalm.org online.