Kent County Recycling Center in Grand Rapids adds education component, sort-free recycling

Deborah Johnson Wood

The next school environmental class to tour the new $11.5 million Kent County Recycling and Education Center will learn about the county's upcoming new single-stream recycling method from a bird's-eye view of the action – a catwalk that extends over the sorting equipment.

The new center at 977 Wealthy St. SW is nearly complete, and work crews are training on the new sorting equipment, says Dennis Kmiecik, Kent County's solid waste division director.

"The schools are emphasizing recycling in their curriculum," he says. "We got overwhelmed with tours in our old facility (322 Bartlett SW). So in the new facility we invested in a classroom that can seat 80 people and has all the new technology."

Interior windows allow students to observe workers and equipment from the classroom. What they'll see will be state-of-the-art sorting equipment that can handle a much higher capacity of recycled waste than the current equipment, all sorting from a single stream that contains plastic, glass, metal and paper waste products.

With single-stream, Kent County residents and businesses will no longer need to sort recyclables into separate bins, but can place them all in one cart they can wheel to the curb.

Kmiecik expects the city of Grand Rapids to offer 30-, 68- and 90-gallon carts, free. Individual haulers outside the city will determine what carts to offer customers and the cost, if any.

The change will take place mid-July, with how-to information available within the next week or so, Kmiecik says.

The new process should reduce the recycle center's operating expenses, but Kmiecik isn't making predictions on how much.

"We were running 13 hours a day, six days a week, with 90 to 100 community service workers each day," he says. "Now it will be eight hours a day, five days a week with a minimum of 20 people."

Kmiecik hopes the new process will mean more people will recycle. He says Grand Rapids has a 45 percent residential recycling rate; countywide the number is only 20 percent.

Source: Dennis Kmiecik, Kent County Recycling and Education Center

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Development News tips can be sent to [email protected].

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