GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’ve been putting plastic shopping bags and shredded paper into your recycling bin, the Kent County Recycling Center has a simple request: Stop it.
Those items are a big headache for the county recycling program and are costing taxpayers money.
“We have about 25 people that work on the line every day. If everybody recycled perfectly and we got the material exactly how we wanted it, we could cut that number down by more than half,” said Kyle Showmaker, supervisor for the Kent County Recycling and Education Center on Wealthy Street SW near the Grand River.
It may come as a surprise to many that the ubiquitous bags are not OK to put in the recycling bin.
“The problem is they can mess up our equipment. We have to shut down multiple times a day to unwrap these bags off of shafts and different pieces of equipment,” Shoemaker explained.
Maybe even more surprising is that shredded paper is also a big problem.
“The paper flies all over and it’s almost impossible to capture,” Shoemaker told News 8 Tuesday. “This is one of the reasons why we want to encourage people not to send shred paper to the recycle center. It’s very small, it falls through the equipment, it doesn’t go to a recycle stream, most of it ends up here.”
If the paper gets wet, it can gum up the works.
When it comes to paper, the county asks that you only shred confidential documents that have to be shredded and then put them in the trash, not recycling, or maybe use them for campfire kindling.
Starting Jan. 1, the department will no longer accept plastic bags or shredded paper.
Up to now, the plastic bags that have come to the facility were burned in an out-of-state waste-to-energy facility, but there is a better solution.
“Any time you burn an item, you end the life cycle of that item. By dropping them off at Meijer’s stores, they can extend the life cycle by making new products,” Shoemaker said.
Meijer has had plastic bag recycling bins near entrances for years, but now the grocery giant wants people to know they can bring all kinds of clean, clear plastic wrapping and packaging.
“Paper towel wrap, single-use plastic bags,” Erik Petrovskis, director of environmental compliance and sustainability for Meijer, listed. “I brought these from home: I have a bread bag, ice bag. Pretty much anything as long as it’s free of food and free of any other debris.”
Meijer has already diverted a lot of waste with its program.
“All told, throughout our entire footprint, we end up recycling millions of pounds of plastic through that process,” Petrovskis said. “They are turned into a variety of plastic materials: tables, chairs, decking, that kind of thing.”
SpartanNash also offers plastic bag recycling at certain Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market and Forest Hills Foods stores. It says the bags and other plastics are recycled into consumer products.