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Recycling containers, flyers cause confusion

Becky Vargo and Marie Havenga • Apr 14, 2019 at 2:31 PM

The official word received Thursday evening from a local waste hauler’s corporate office is that glass is still being accepted in recycling containers in the Tri-Cities area.

The response came several days after a request for clarification as area residents said they were getting conflicting answers about what was or was not being accepted locally.

Workers from Republic Services have been busy dropping off 95-gallon recycling containers around the Tri-Cities area for the past couple of weeks. But the flyer included with the bin caused some confusion for local residents, mainly because it showed that glass could not be included.

Ferrysburg resident Brian Shafer said he is happy to have the larger recycling container, but he was concerned that the local waste company’s flyer indicated they were not accepting glass. It all comes down to the recycling center’s ability to sort the materials, he said.

“Luckily, whoever does the sorting, they still take glass,” Shafer said. 

Shafer, who said he recycles “a lot,” couldn’t believe what he called the most recyclable of materials couldn’t be included, so he questioned the notice. He first looked on the company’s website, where there’s a spot that allows you to put in your address and ZIP code. Then it tells you whether or not you can recycle glass, Shafer said.

Another concern expressed by people on social media was the fact that their recyclables would be picked up every other week from now on.

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger said he contacted a Republic Services official and was sent a Grand Haven/Spring Lake flyer that showed the company was still accepting glass.

Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash said last week  he was told by a Republic Services official that the company will no longer be accepting glass in its recycling bins.

Back in January, Nash said he noted trends that glass is no longer a profitable commodity for recycling. Late Friday afternoon, he said he’s glad to hear that Republic Services has changed its plan of action.

“I think they’re going to accept it for a while,” Nash said. “I guess the whole thing has been — every day is a different message.”

Nash said he heard from the local Republic Services representative that the current plan is to accept glass and crush it, then deposit it in the Coopersville landfill.

“Temporarily, everyone is going to keep accepting glass,” Nash said. “The biggest problem is, there are too many people who are indiscriminate and don’t clean glass. They just throw it in there. Dirty glass can encourage varmints. The thing that kind of upsets me is, people don’t want to take paper off their tin cans or clean their glass. They just want it to go away.”

If people don’t take greater care, Nash said the currently slim recycling profit margins could lead to waste haulers dropping their recycling options.

He hopes the end result between consumers and waste hauler companies is a “win-win.” But, he said glass is heavy, hard to sort and has no value.

“It's not fair for (waste haulers) to pay a lot to drive (glass) to Grand Rapids, and then Grand Rapids just throws it away,” Nash said.

Nash encourages people to stop putting glass in their recycle containers, even though he said there are no garbage can inspectors.

“I hope people will do it,” he said of ending the habit of putting glass in the recycling bin. “The alternative is, if it doesn't change, there will be no more recycling.”

Back in 2006, when Nash said he promoted the whole recycling project in Spring Lake Township, “we were getting paid for recycling products.” Now, he said they're not even breaking even

The Republic rate hike in Spring Lake Township, from $52 to $62 per quarter, which became effective April 1, was because of the change in recyclng rates, according to Nash.

“That was for garbage and recycling combined,” Nash said. “If we have to raise rates again, we'll stop it (recycling). It really stinks.”

The Tribune tried all of last week to get the confusion resolved with Republic Services. Thursday evening, the company’s general manager, Tom Mahoney, said, “Yes, Republic Services customers still can place glass in their recycling containers. We're sorry for any confusion.”

Mahoney noted that glass recycling has been discontinued in some areas of the country because there is only limited demand for the recycled material. The raw materials that go into glass (silica sand, soda ash and colorants) are plentiful and affordable, so manufacturers don't have much incentive to use recycled glass.

Republic Services has set up a website with tips to help consumers be better recyclers: recyclingsimplified.com. It's available to anyone, not just customers of Republic Services.

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