Michigan recycling facility faces challenges with law change
HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — For the first time in the nearly 30 years Recycle Livingston has existed, it has had to pay to send away the materials it collected for recycling.
The nonprofit organization paid $946 to waste management company Green For Life for materials sent to them for the month of October, said Julie Cribley, Executive Director at Recycle Livingston. In contrast, for the month of September, Green for Life paid $850 to Recycle Livingston for its materials.
“We do expect to experience a loss for a while,” Cribley told the Livingston Daily .
Having to pay Green For Life was just one change that international recycling policies have brought upon small recycling operations such as Recycle Livingston.
“They’re facing the same problems we are,” Cribley said about Green For Life.
Costs for Recycle Livingston to transport materials such as plastics and glass, for example, have increased, as have the costs of labor to handle it, she said.
For example, it costs $200 per load to transport materials from Recycle Livingston, she said.
“We’ve never paid transport fees before,” Cribley said.
As of Sept. 1, prices for daily use of the facility, and for memberships, have increased.
For example, an annual family membership is now $40, up from $30.
Families that are not members of Recycle Livingston now have to pay $10 for each visit, up from $3 for each visit, while business non-members have to pay $35 per site visit, up from $10.
“When markets become overloaded, the price you get for the material drops. It’s supply and demand. When there’s not very much, you get paid a lot for it. But when there’s a lot, you’re not,” Cribley said.
In addition, Recycle Livingston no longer accepts brown, green or blue glass. However, it still accepts clear glass.
As of Sept. 1, the organization no longer accepts plastics with recycle numbers 3 through 7, or any plastic bags, film plastic, and hard-molded plastic items such as children’s play sets.
Only members can bring plastics with recycling numbers 1 and 2, and must be cleaned of food waste and separated into specific containers.
“This change is important and will enable Recycle Livingston to continue to recycle all materials that come into the site,” the nonprofit’s website stated.
However, these changes have caused a positive consequence: an increase in annual memberships.
In the month of September, 81 new memberships were signed, mostly by people who had been paying the original per-visit gate fee of $3, according to Cribley.
On Nov. 14, Recycle Livingston saw a slew of customers drop off items.
That day, Brighton resident Muriel Kaier recycled approximately three large bags of foam cups, carryout containers, and packaging. As a non-member, the recycling is something she does twice a year, gathering the items from her church and from her neighbors, she said.
“I can say I’ve been depending on this place for 15 years,” Kaier said.
Kaier commented on the price changes.
“They have to do it in order to keep the business going,” she said. “What you pay to recycle is a small price to pay than filling the landfill or putting it on the side of the road.”
Fowlerville resident Rene Michele — who brought plastic milk cartons and glass pickle jars to recycle on Nov. 14 — said he looks at recycling from an outdoorsman’s perspective.
“I’m an avid outdoorsman and I don’t want to see the trash in the rivers,” said Michele, who is not a member of Recycle Livingston and uses the facility about twice a year.
Plastic water bottles and glass spaghetti jars are just some of the items Howell resident and Recycle Livingston member Kim Christopherson brought with her to recycle on Nov. 14.
“There’s so much more plastic we end up throwing away, but it’s not their fault,” Christopherson said about Recycle Livingston’s changes to its plastic recycling policy.
In the four years Christopherson has been a member, she said she has become more aware of her household trash.
“I’m more conscious about ’what am I throwing away? And can it be recycled?” she said.
Recycle Livingston’s policy changes stem from what Cribley described as China’s growing resistance to taking the Western world’s garbage — including metric tons of plastics. In January, the country outright banned the importing of foreign plastics and paper products.
In addition, the Communist nation imposed stricter standards about importing contaminated waste from elsewhere.
“China asked us (as a country) to start cleaning it up and we ignored it,” Cribley said. “It comes down to how clean the materials are, who needs what, and how much material is out there.”
Since the ban by China, U.S. recycling facilities have had to take on more materials they would normally export to China, meaning they are facing the prospect of employee layoffs and price increases to customers so they can cover costs of a more complex recycling process.
Locally, Recycle Livingston has always asked customers to sort and clean their recyclables, Cribley said.
The nonprofit plans to adapt, according to Cribley.
“I see us weathering the storm as we’ve weathered all the other storms,” she said.
The nonprofit has been through financial ups and downs over the years as the costs of various materials fluctuated, so it has saved money since its inception to help, Cribley said.
“This is our ‘rainy day,’” she said.
Information from: Livingston Daily Press & Argus, http://www.livingstondaily.com