Construction, Government, and Sustainability

Recycling center undergoing $1.5M upgrade

December 4, 2017
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Kent County Recycling & Education Center
The Kent County Recycling & Education Center is located in southwest Grand Rapids. Courtesy Kent County

A local recycling center is temporarily closed as it undergoes a $1.5-million upgrade to its system.

The Kent County Recycling & Education Center in Grand Rapids, at 977 Wealthy St. SW, is undergoing several upgrades to improve its efficiency and add dairy cartons, juice boxes and other items to its list of acceptable materials.

The center said its upgrades are taking place between Nov. 28 and Dec. 19. The facility is closed and unable to accept recyclables during this time.

Upgrades include a new screen for corrugated, or pleated, cardboard, additional optical sorting equipment and conveyor system refurbishment.

Examples of cartons that will be recyclable include empty creamer, soy and almond milk containers, juice boxes, milk cartons and boxed water.

The upgrades will allow the facility to accept paper cartons and mechanically sort corrugated cardboard to help keep up with the community’s growing recycling needs.

The project’s funding is being provided by the Kent County Department of Public Works.

“Prior to having this equipment at our facility, paper cartons were not recycled, because they’re a mixed material,” said Kristen Wieland, communications and marketing manager, Kent County Department of Public Works. “They are coated in plastic and sometimes also have a metal layer. These layers make them great for storing food and beverages but makes them challenging to recycle.”

Daniel Schoonmaker, executive director of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, said any recyclables disposed during the upgrade period will likely be diverted to another facility, and he encouraged residents to hold on to their recyclables in the meantime.

“Those with the ability to do so should hold on to their recycling until after the updates are complete on Dec. 19,” Schoonmaker said. “These upgrades are necessary to improve the system and will ultimately help us reduce waste in our community."

Kent County operated a dual-stream recycling system until 2010, meaning people had to keep their paper products separate from their plastic, metal and glass. 

When the Recycling & Education Center opened in 2010, it adopted a single-stream system, making it easier for residents to recycle, as they no longer have to separate their materials.

Over the past seven years, the center has undergone periodic maintenance and upgrades to adapt to changes in community recycling habits.

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