Grooters Green Group Opens Recycling Facility

March 24, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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BYRON CENTER — Grooters Green Group has opened a materials recovery facility on 76th Street near U.S. 131 on a trial basis, recycling various materials in waste collected from several commercial/industrial companies.

"I would guess by June this will be fully up and running," said Robert Grooters of Robert Grooters Development Co. The recycling facility is in an industrial building owned by RGDC.

Grooters said the facility may ultimately employ 100 or more. He said he has had discussions with some major nonprofit organizations in Kent County about their help in finding unemployed people to work at the facility.

Grooters said his ultimate plan is to some day build a Grooters Green Group industrial park near the airport that would be centered around recycling. He said his involvement in recycling goes back to Woodland Metals, a small copper-salvaging company he established back in the early 1960s.

Two years ago, after construction was under way on the RGDC River House condominium tower in downtown Grand Rapids, Grooters said he stopped by the site one day and was shocked by the amount of waste building materials — metal, plastic, wood, glass and paper — accumulating in large bins for pickup by waste haulers.

"Everything hauled to the dump. I said, 'This does not make sense,'" recalled Grooters.

Grooters said recycling building materials is nothing new in many other parts of the world, but it usually hasn't been economically viable in the U.S. until the recent increase in commodity prices. Demand for copper is increasing overseas, helping drive its cost in the U.S. from 80 cents a pound to $3.60 a pound in the last four years. Congress is now wondering what do to do about pennies and nickels, the metal content of which costs more than the face value of those coins.

On a recent day when oil went above $109 per barrel, Grooters noted the impact that has on the cost of trucking trash to a landfill — not to mention the cost of plastics, which are made from petroleum.

"Trucking cost is just skyrocketing," he said, and the price of oil is "a staggering blow to the plastics industry and the carpet industry." Many carpet textiles are manufactured from petroleum.

"Today, (recycling) couldn't be more important," said Grooters.

Grooters said recycling presents new opportunities for employment in West Michigan.

"Let's take the trash and put people to work" recovering the salvageable materials from it, he said.

Last fall Grooters announced the formation of Grooters Green Group, which was centered on a commercial/industrial waste pickup service. Jeannie ten Haaf, general manager of the new company, said there are about 120 or more Greater Grand Rapids companies signed up for the waste pickup service, and more businesses are being added to the client list every week.

"We just got four more customers today," said ten Haaf recently.

She said the new waste service has added a sixth truck to its fleet and employs about eight. Grooters said the waste-hauling division is "hiring more drivers every day."

Ten Haaf said the recycling facility is only processing waste from three or four of its many waste-service customers at this point, as the recyclers gain experience sorting out recyclable materials from the trash. Grooters said the company hopes to perfect its recycling ability to the point where 90 percent to 95 percent of the commercial/industrial trash picked up is salvaged for re-use.

Grooters said most of the major companies in Grand Rapids are probably already recycling much of their waste.

"It's the small guys that don't have the facilities or volume to do it" efficiently.

Grooters Green Group may eventually spin off other companies, said Grooters, mainly related to a specific type of recyclable material or product. Those include metals, plastics, glass, wood pallets, carpeting, cardboard and construction materials.

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