Montcalm County’s recycling program has proven to be popular — a little too popular.
Last year, the county’s seven recycling sites in Carson City, Crystal, Edmore, Howard City, Lakeview, Montcalm Township and Stanton averaged 73,970 pounds of items per month, according to Montcalm County Resource Recovery Coordinator Jacob Rytlewski. This year, that number has increased by 32 percent to date, due to increased participation countywide. Recycling sites have experienced higher volumes of recyclables, leading to overflow issues.
As a result, Rytlewski has introduced open air cardboard containers as a cost-effective way to increase the amount of storage at each recycling site. He said cardboard comprises approximately 20 percent of the weight of all recyclables collected, but can take up to 50 percent of the volume in recycle bins.
“When people place cardboard boxes that have not been broken down, voids are created and essentially space is wasted,” he said.
Rytlewski said the open air bins are preferable over a conventional dumpster for cardboard.
“When it rains, the cardboard gets wet, but in a dumpster the water has no place to go and the cardboard becomes saturated and less recyclable,” he said. “The open container acts as a drying rack and, unlike the green containers, the cardboard bin is unloaded by hand.”
All county recycling sites are now required to have the open air containers in addition to the regular green containers. This new requirement didn’t go over well with officials in the village of Lakeview, who saw the open air containers as a blight issue.
In September, the Lakeview Village Council unanimously voted to remove the open air bins from the village’s recycling site. As a result, county officials decided to completely remove the original four green containers, effectively closing the village’s recycling site.
“The village of Lakeview was unable to compromise on this and the site will be moved elsewhere,” Rytlewski said. “Other municipalities in the county have expressed interest in hosting a recycle site and over the next month’s options will be explored and a decision will be made. Until that time, the site in Lakeview will remain open without cardboard recycling. Signage will be placed to let users of the Lakeview site know their options when the site shuts down.”
Lakeview Village Manager James Freed said he has offered the county numerous other possible locations for the site to be relocated, but to no avail.
“The reality is simple — although this program is nice, the county does not have the funds to run it properly or efficiently,” Freed said. “Lakeview was well down the list of local municipalities across the county that have begun to raise issue with this.”
Rytlewski said officials in Eureka Township and Maple Valley Township have expressed interest in hosting a recycling site in lieu of Lakeview. Whatever location is chosen, a priority must be placed on communication between the community and the county.
“The cardboard program is collecting approximately 3,250 pounds per week,” Rytlewski said. “Some sites have had extremely high volumes of cardboard and the pickup scheduled has been changing to fit those volumes. Communication between the sites is important and when issues arise, they are dealt with.
“However, proactive measures are more effective than being solely reactive,” he added. “After the situation with Lakeview, I don’t want to have similar problems with other sites.”
Rytlewski said one of the continuing problems the county’s recycling program faces is that a portion of people using the recycling sites don’t care to read or follow the rules clearly posted at each site.
“If users of the sites broke down boxes, kept trash out and didn’t leave items outside the bins, the program would run issue-free,” he said. “Education and sorting out the bad apples is the answer. I encourage Montcalm County residents to contact me with any questions they may have to ensure they are properly using the sites.”
Rytlewski can be reached in the Resource Recovery Office in Stanton at (989) 831-7504.