By LISA BOWERS
Journal Staff Writer
NEGAUNEE — Due to the COVID-19 the year has been full of firsts, not all of them good. But officials from Negaunee Township and Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority are celebrating what they hope is the beginning of an exciting new trend.
Negaunee Township Supervisor Gary Wommer dropped off 1,860 pounds of clean and empty bottles and jars to the MCSWMA recycling facility in Marquette on Friday, representing the first municipality to do so.
MCSWMA director Bradley Austin said the glass will be recycled through different equipment than that used for the recycling of other materials. It can be processed into a sand or aggregate material, but it must be separated prior to reaching the landfill.
Because glass must be separated from all other recyclable materials to be processed, how and when glass will be collected from residents will be up to each individual municipality.
Austin said some municipalities may be considering curbside collection, while others will implement a community drop-off site, like the one in Negaunee Township.
“People are still trying to get adjusted,” Austin said. “All the entities are exploring their options, I think what we are going to find is drop-off locations or maybe the three cities in Marquette County will arrange curbside pickup. If residents can deliver it to us directly that would be the third option of folks. Marquette County residents can just come right in during our operating hours and bring it to us.”
He said a great deal of the 8,900 pounds of separated glass MCSWMA has received since Oct. 1 has been from individual residents who live in municipalities where drop-off or curbside glass collection programs are not in place yet.
Negaunee Township, for its part, designed a 6-foot-by12-foot trailer that could be safely used to collect glass and transport it to the landfill, Wommer said.
The glass recycling effort in the township was so successful that officials had to start putting glass in an overflow container prior to transporting the first load of glass to MCSWMA.
In addition to the glass recycling effort, the township also distributed 64-gallon single-stream bins to residents this year using a $5,500 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and $15,000 in matching funds from the Recycling Partnership, which is a nationwide organization that works with city governments to transform recycling programs.
“We are so driven by this single-stream recycling we are going to collect information about how much recycling our residents do. We are going to put the totals up on our website monthly, with the first set going up there in December. We are trying to put as little in the landfill as we can. That is the whole purpose for doing this.”
Austin said there are several ways that the repurposed glass could be used. Some will be ground into sand, which will be used on the roads at the MCSWMA site this winter.
There are other aggregate products that will be used on the landfill site as well, he said.
In the long term, Austin said the landfill authority will continue to work with Michigan Tech University to look for opportunities to repurpose the glass material into the concrete and asphalt industries.
Wommer said he has been impressed by the support his municipality has shown for recycling.
“We were very fortunate that we put out these recycling bins, and each customer got them for free, essentially,” Wommer said. “That’s big stuff, you don’t hear that nowadays. Recycling’s time has come. They tried it a few years ago but it was half-hearted, it’s different now, and maybe we can lower the bill a little bit, in the process.”
MCSWMA’s single stream recycling program went online on Oct. 1. The total cost of the project, including glass recycling, was $6.3 million.
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.