ESCANABA — In an attempt to reduce waste, protect the environment, and promote sustainability, facilities exist across Delta County to assist citizens with proper disposal and recycling processes. The Delta Solid Waste Management Authority (DSWMA), located at 5701 19th Ave. N., not only oversees the Delta County Landfill, but houses the Delta Wide Recycling center and a compost site as well.
“At the Delta Wide Recycling center, we recycle things like tin, paper, plastic, and cardboard,” Terri Rabitoy, administration manager at DSWMA, said. “What we have is a drive-thru center, so people can come in and there are different bins where they can put their stuff depending on its type.”
Rather than throwing unwanted items, cleaning products, or a variety of paper materials into the trash, Delta Wide Recycling encourages the collection and transformation of these objects into reusable products. Outside of the standard recyclable items that many may think of, like soda cans and plastic bottles, several other household items should be recycled as well. To name a few, lead-acid batteries, steel food cans, and retired electronic devices can be repurposed.
“You would not believe the tonnage that we take in on a daily basis of garbage, and a good portion of it could be recycled,” Rabitoy said. “I highly recommend that people use our curbside pick-up. Put your recyclables in there and you don’t even have to separate it. We will separate it all here.”
Whether materials are picked-up via recycling truck or personally delivered to the recycling center, the recyclables will eventually end up at the DSWMA’s Municipal Recycling Plant (MRP). Once at the MRP, the materials are transported by a single-stream conveyor to what is referred to as “the line,” where employees sort materials into large bins by hand. After the bins are filled, they are sent to a baling machine, which compacts the different types of materials into large bales. Once buyers are found for the different materials that have been baled, employees will load the finished product onto semi-trucks to be shipped.
“[DSWMA] sends out several loads, like semi-trailer full, of cardboard a month to be recycled,” Rabitoy said. “We utilize Alter [Metal Recycling] and A&L [Iron and Metal] in town for our metal recycling, so that is brought in on a more regular basis as well.”
Because Delta Wide Recycling uses a single-stream system to sort through product, it is important for people to be conscientious of what they are throwing into their recycling bin. If garbage, like cat litter or used coffee grounds, were to combine with recyclable product, it can no longer be recycled. The now contaminated product must be sent to the landfill instead of being repurposed. This issue, according to Rabitoy, is the recycling center’s biggest struggle at the moment.
DSWMA also accepts recyclable products that cannot be thrown into recycling bins. Containers of clean oil, TVs, and appliances containing freon are accepted by the center but must be dropped off by the homeowner. When these products are transported via recycling truck, they create large messes and ultimately slow the sorting process for DSWMA employees. This is an avoidable issue if recycling rules were to be followed.
Paula Derouin, who works on the main floor of the MRP, encourages people to drop these items off.
“Do not put needles or liquids in your recycling bins. Bring it here, it is free to drop these items off,” Derouin said. “Don’t put it in your recycling bin because it will get scrunched in the truck, it contaminates everything, and we will get oil all over the floor.”
The recycling center’s single-stream system also prohibits them from accepting any glass products. When recycling trucks deposit their load at the MRP, it falls onto a concrete floor. This can cause glass objects to shatter and therefore pose a risk to employees sorting through the recyclables.
Of all of the products being recycled at the Delta Wide Recycling center, cardboard is the most abundant. Local businesses, like the Escanaba paper mill and EMP, regularly donate all of their cardboard to the center.
“I think it is great that businesses recycle their cardboard, because the mill has its own landfill and they could just throw it away,” Derouin said. “We get two loads a week from the paper mill and two a month from EMP.”
In terms of recycling, the Delta Wide Recycling center accepts a variety of plastic, paper, and corrugated cardboard products. Aluminum and steel cans, which must be rinsed thoroughly, along with steel aerosol cans, are accepted. Newspapers, books, and magazines can also be dropped off.
Scrap metal is also accepted, with cost of disposal dependent upon weight. A variety of tires, varying from car to semi-truck, are accepted with a fee as well.
Appliances containing freon, like refrigerators, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers, are accepted at the recycling center, along with TVs, computer monitors, and other electronic devices. Both mattresses and box springs are welcome to be recycled as well. These items must be dropped off at the facility and have accompanying fees for disposal.
A full list of recyclable products, how to prepare items for the recycling facility, and pricing schemes can be found at deltacountymi.gov under the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority’s section. Select “What We Recycle” for full details. Aluminum foil, pie tins, clothing, tissue products, carbon paper, and non-corrugated cardboard are just a few of the items not accepted.
While DSWMA does not accept liquids, items classified a “household hazardous waste” can be dropped off at the recycling center for proper disposal. Because these items should not be added to the landfill, DSWMA will dispose of them with no charge to residents of Delta County. For example, batteries, mercury thermometers, and florescent bulbs are accepted. Designated liquids, like pesticides, herbicides, and anti freeze, are accepted as well.
If these items are still of usable quality, the recycling center houses a “Re-Use Room,” where anyone can take spray paint, bug killers, and other cleaning supplies they may need for free.
“We do recycle used oil if it is good, clean oil,” Rabitoy said. “We actually have a system that can burn it to heat our shop, so we utilize it that way by recycling.”
For waste that cannot be revitalized into tangible objects, like food scraps and lawn materials, composting is another method of recycling that directly benefits the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 30 percent of all trash in the United States is food and lawn waste. Rather than allowing these materials to rot away in landfills, where they release an abundance of methane into the atmosphere, compost piles help break down the waste into a nutrient-rich substance that can be used to fertilize soils. While DSWMA currently cannot sell compost, they still utilize their compost on a daily basis.
“We use the compost on the landfill because we have to cover it. There has to be six inches of cover on the landfill at the end of every day,” Rabitoy said. “We have to cover the landfill because it cannot blow around and we have to keep animals and stuff out of there … and also block odor.”
For those looking to compost, the County Landfill Compost Site is open 24/7 to residential customers. Located west of the landfill’s main entrance, accepted materials include grass clippings, leaves, Christmas trees, and small brush. If using bags to carry these materials, they must be emptied and removed from the compost site. Unacceptable compost materials include wood, ashes, metal, stumps, and garbage.
“We all know about global warming and the way that the environment is changing. We just all need to work together to keep this stuff out of the landfill and reuse it,” Rabitoy said. “It is so important that people follow the guidelines of what is recyclable.”
DSWMA is open Monday through Saturday. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on every weekday except Thursday, with those hours being 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, forms, and pricing, call (906) 786-9056 or visit deltacountymi.gov.