Good news for the eco-conscious: the amount locals are recycling is up, the amount they’re tossing in the trash is declining, and the gap between the two is widening.
Kalkaska-based American Waste, which nabbed the contract to become Traverse City’s sole waste hauler in early 2011, tells The Ticker that nearly 70 percent of the household refuse American Waste now collects in all of Grand Traverse County – either curbside or at its drop-off sites – gets recycled rather than ending up in a landfill.
That’s twice the percentage that was recycled a year ago.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘I have way more recycling than trash every week,” says Kelly Ignace, spokeswoman for the waste collecting company.
Recycling in Grand Traverse County (and nationally) has been trending upward slightly for several years, but this year it’s expected to rise by more than 1,000 tons over last year. Volumes have hovered around 10,000 tons per year since 2007, according to figures by the county’s resource recovery department.
The reason? Over the past two years, American Waste invested nearly $9 million in an advanced sorting facility that combines mechanical and hand-sorting methods, leaving less sorting to consumers.
The company has also been simplifying its drop-off site bins so that people can dump everything but glass into the same compartments. Previously, people had to separate paper, plastic and metals.
And, both the drop-off and curbside pickup services now accept grades 1-7 plastics – as well as plastic bags and plastics without a recycling number (previously only grades 1 and 2 were accepted).
Meanwhile, landfill volumes have trended downward each year. In 2007, the county generated about 82,000 tons of refuse for area landfills; this year that will drop to an anticipated 67,000 tons. One factor: recessions cut trash output as fewer purchases mean less disposable packaging.
Despite the progress, landfill volumes remain significantly higher than recycling because they also include commercial, industrial and construction waste – which consistently generate more refuse than households. The shrinking landfill volume is good news for Grand Traverse County. The longer it takes to fill an existing dump, the longer that dump can be used, says County Resource Recovery Manager Bob Osterhout. Grand Traverse trash goes to landfills in Leelanau, Manistee and Wexford counties.