Tuscola County recycling program hopes to expand operations with larger facility

By Mary Drier
Staff Writer

CARO — The recycling program in Tuscola County hopes to expand operations with more recycling and to do that in a bigger facility.

County recycling operations started in 1996, and has steadily grown in the amount of recyclables received and the scope of what is collected. Yet, more could be done, but room is needed to be able do that.

The current one-acre location at 1123 Mertz Rd. (M-24) is landlocked, and rented from the city of Caro for $1 a year.

At the last county meeting, the Tuscola County Recycling Committee asked county commissioners to consider the possibility of relocating recycling operations from the current location to county owned property on Deckerville Road behind the Tuscola Technology Center. The request is for 10 acres of the 66 acres that is there. The vacant land is rented out for about $14,000 a year to a farmer.

“For awhile now, we have been struggling with storage space,” said Mike Miller, who is the county’s recycling director. “We wouldn’t use the full 10 acres to start – just two to three acres, but it would give us room for future expansion, and to offer other services.”

The current recycling center is a former Department of Natural Resources building. Upgrades were done to the building in 2009, and a small addition was added in 2013, the facility is showing its age and more room is needed.

“We don’t have sufficient storage space so some products have to sit outside. We need to have a semi-load to be able to ship,” said Miller. “If more storage space was available, we could expand our program to accept more materials than what we do now.

“The site wouldn’t be a junkyard or have a smell. We could have a section used for education, and an area for composting. If handled right, composting doesn’t have a smell.”

Plus, Huron and Sanilac counties have expressed interest in coordinating with Tuscola’s recycling program.

The county’s proposed expansion is just in the preliminary planning stages. The recycling program is funded with a millage. That millage money has a reserve that would fund construction if a relocation is approved. However, because the millage to fund that program will be on the 2016 ballot no decision will be made until after that election.

So if everything came together, the earliest groundbreaking could be done is 2017.

Miller and the recycling committee asked commissioners to allow the recycling committee to gather information on the feasibility of relocating operations.

Plus, Tuscola’s vision ties in with the state’s efforts to increase recycling. Last April, Gov. Snyder announced he wanted the state to reach 30 percent recycling in two years, and to be a leader in residential recycling.

“Michigan has a strong tradition of protecting and enhancing its environment,” Snyder said. “But when it comes to recycling, we must do better.”

Michigan’s recycling rate for residential household waste is about 15 percent. The national average is 35 percent. A recent study concluded more than $435 million in recyclable metal, glass, paper and plastics goes from Michigan households to Michigan landfills each year.

“Michigan trails other Great Lakes states and much of the nation in residential recycling. It’s a complex challenge but one that we can address,” said Snyder. “States with healthy recycling programs have found that, in addition to reducing pressure on landfills and helping the environment, recycling creates jobs and opens markets for recovered materials.

“We’ve been throwing away money for decades.

To assist communities beginning a robust recycling effort, the DEQ is offering up to $600,000 this year as part of its Community Pollution Prevention Grant Program. Non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments, local health departments, municipalities, and regional planning agencies are all welcome to apply. Requests for funding will be accepted through April 1.

The county plans to submit a grant for $31,000. If the money is received, it would go towards the purchase of a trailer and for wages for a part-time employee. If successful, the grant requires a 25 percent match, which would be $7,750 and paid out of the millage money that operates the program.

Last year when the state started focusing on expanding recycling a 15-point plan was developed that focuses on four key areas:

• Benchmark and measure progress – including developing ways to better track Michigan’s recycling rate and document the progress of the state’s effort.

• Public education and technical assistance for communities – other states report that an informed and supportive public is a key to increasing recycling, along with providing tools for local governments to develop local programs.

• Provide convenient access – successful recycling programs feature convenient access at the local level.

• Develop markets – stimulation of market opportunities for recycled products will be addressed with grants and other economic incentives.

Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at [email protected]

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