Montcalm County recycling coordinator quits; electronics recycling costs rise

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STANTON — Montcalm County’s recycling coordinator position has been vacated once again, even as the county’s price of electronic recycling is on the rise.

Montcalm County’s Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee on Monday recommended the full board approve an electronic recycling cost increase from 25 cents per pound to 62 cents per pound. The rate was increased for the county by Comprenew in Grand Rapids effective Nov. 15, so the cost is being passed on to consumers. — DN Photo | Elisabeth Waldon

The Mid-Michigan District Health Department Board of Health on Nov. 28 voted to terminate without cause its agreement with Montcalm County to provide resource recovery (recycling) services due to a staffing shortage in the health department’s environmental health division. The last day the health department will provide recycling services to Montcalm County will be March 29.

Resource Recovery Coordinator Sam Mrozinkski, who was just hired seven months ago, resigned to take a job in the dairy division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

The resource recovery coordinator position has been unable to retain a long-term candidate for some time now. Jacob Rytlewski filled the position from 2011 to 2014, followed by Chloe Morey from June 2016 to April 2017, Cameron Tenwalde from May 2017 to this past May and most recently Mrozinkski.

According to Solid Waste Management Chairman Mark Sabin, the Montcalm Conservation District has expressed interest in a shared resource recovery coordinator. The Conservation District will have its next meeting Dec. 11 to discuss the proposal further.

On Monday, Montcalm County’s Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee recommended the full board approve the health department’s termination letter. The full Board of Commissioners will next meet at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Montcalm County Administrative Building in Stanton.

ELECTRONIC RECYCLING

Also on Monday, the Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee recommended the full board approve an electronic recycling cost increase from 25 cents per pound to 62 cents per pound. Comprenew in Grand Rapids increased Montcalm County’s electronic recycling rate effective Nov. 15, so the cost is being passed on to consumers.

Comprenew President Scott VanderKooy told the Daily News the logistical costs of recycling have increased “dramatically” throughout the United States since the start of 2018. He said Comprenew lost 32 cents per pound in residential recycling throughout 2018, but they didn’t increase prices on municipalities until the contracts expired.

“As a non-profit, we think it’s very important to serve both the residential and the corporate communities, but the only way we can stay sustainable is to increase our prices,” he said. “We hated doing this, we really did. At the individual level, it will affect some people. It is a big issue. The challenge for recycling in general when prices go up is that is it going to discourage recycling, which is not what any of us want. It’s important that we have a climate that is very encouraging for recycling.”

VanderKooy explained Montcalm County is considered mostly a “residential stream” of electronic recycling, as opposed to a “corporate stream.”

Residential recycling weighs more than corporate recycling due to the large amount of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from old televisions and outdated computers. Corporate recycling is mostly comprised of flatscreen technology — such as laptop computers, desktop computers and networking gear — most of which still have value.

“The corporate stream, by and large, generates a product that still has some value to it, and by value I mean there’s inherent metal value or resale value in those items that more than pay for the cost of properly evaluating it and disassembling it,” VanderKooy said. “The corporate stream is considered positive value, but the residential stream is now by and large a negative value product, meaning it costs more to properly handle it than those devices would pay for.”

According to VanderKooy, only five locations in the U.S. are properly certified to extract lead from devices. Comprenew ships all CRTs to a certified facility that uses a carbon filtration system to extract lead from those devices. Comprenew itself is the only non-profit electronic recycler in the world to be certified in both R2 and E-Stewards electronic recycling practices, according to VanderKooy.

“Electronics contain a lot of harmful chemicals,” he noted. “Electronics have the potential to bring so much benefit to people if it’s handled properly. We want to make sure electronics benefit people and not harm people.

“It’s a credit to Montcalm County because they’re aware enough to make a decision that ensures that used electronics do not cause harm but are in fact used to bring as much benefit as possible,” he added of Montcalm County’s decision to continue offering electronic recycling, albeit at an increased cost.

During Monday’s committee meetings, county officials wondered aloud whether the cost increase will discourage residents from recycling their electronics.

“Most people at 25 cents are not turning in their electronics,” Controller-Administrator Bob Clingenpeel noted. “Now at 62 cents …”

“Sixty-two cents per pound adds up pretty quick,” Commissioner John Johansen agreed.

Electronic recycling remains available at the health department in Stanton now through March 29 via appointment by calling (989) 831-3635.

Visit www.mmdhd.org/recycling for more information.



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