BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A roughly $350 million proposal to transform West Michigan waste into roofing materials, fertilizer and renewable energy has cleared an important hurdle.

On Thursday, the Kent County Board of Public Works approved a project development agreement with Kent County Bioenergy Facility. The business would anchor the Sustainable Business Park next to the South Kent Landfill off 100th Street near Clyde Park Avenue/14th Street in Kent County’s Byron Township and Allegan County’s Dorr Township.

“It’s a great step forward,” said Kent County Department of Public Works Director Dar Baas, who added that the work is not over.

Continuus Materials and Anaergia are teaming up to create and run Kent County Bioenergy Facility. Continuus Materials creates roofing coverboard called Everboard from plastic film and paper and Anaergia converts organic waste into fertilizer and renewable energy using anaerobic digestion.

(An image provided by the Kent County Department of Public Works shows a conceptual image of Continuus Materials and Anaergia’s processing facilities in the proposed Kent County sustainable business park.)

The new facility would sort out the materials needed from bags of trash, recyclables and restaurant food waste dropped off at the site. Households would not need to change how they dispose of their materials, although Baas said clean, sorted materials are easier to process.

The project has been several years in the making. Baas says the next step for Continuus Materials and Anaergia is to come up with a 30% engineering design to help determine total project costs, which may change from original estimates because of inflation, supply chain issues and rising energy costs. Baas expects that cost analysis to be complete and go to the DPW Board for review by the end of the year.

“It’s an incremental process, but we’re making good progress and we’re excited by that,” Baas said.

As proposed, the Kent County Bioenergy Facility would be able to process 400,000 tons of trash, 30,000 tons of recyclables and “a lot” of organic materials each year, getting the county one step closer to its goal of diverting 90% of trash from the landfill by 2030, which is the year the landfill is expected to reach capacity.

(A November 2021 photo shows the final waste storage cells constructed at South Kent Landfill.)

The agreement approved last week would guide the DPW and Kent County Bioenergy Facility over the next 18 to 36 months until the project is fully contracted and financed, with community input included in the process. Kent County currently expects to invest $70 million in the Sustainable Business Park through a bond that would be repaid via tipping fees and shared revenue from the parks’ renewable products.

In September, the state announced it had set aside $4 million toward the estimated $19 million cost of preparing the site and building out park infrastructure. Baas said the plan right now is to improve 100th Street and Clyde Park Avenue/14th Street to handle the influx of traffic.

If all goes well, the new facility could be up and running in about three years. Economic development groups involved in the project expect other tenants to join the 250-acre business park after that.

(An image from a presentation by the Kent County Department of Public Works, The Right Place, Continuus Materials and Anaergia shows the site map for the proposed sustainable business park.)

Baas said potential secondary tenants interested in the development include a company that transforms certain types of glass into aggregates for other products and a business that would process lower-value recyclable plastics numbered three through seven. Currently, the county must send out those materials to Wisconsin and Canada, respectively.

“Having someone locally here to do it would be a fantastic opportunity,” said Baas, adding that it would mean more jobs and investment locally.

(In this November 2021 photo, Kent County Department of Public Works Director Dar Baas explains how the South Kent Landfill operates.)

Baas previously told News 8 construction and design on the sustainable business park would need to start by 2024 so the county can begin diverting trash.