Sunday, January 10, 2016

Letter: Support curbside recycling efforts

By David Hall, member,
Copper Country Recycling Initiative

To Keweenaw Now:

Thanks for the article about recycling here in Houghton County.* This region -- for too many years -- has been far behind the curve regarding recycling. We say we love this place, but DO we? Here on the Keweenaw Peninsula we recycle a paltry 5 percent of our waste stream while the national average is 34 percent. Some cities in the USA are approaching a 75 percent recycling rate!

A decent curbside recycling service removes about 50 percent of the volume of our waste stream now going to the landfill, thereby DOUBLING its lifespan! Each 6-10 acre "Cell" in OUR landfill costs 3.5 - 4 million dollars to build and a new one must be built every 7 years or so. When a Landfill Cell is full it must be monitored for many decades into the future for toxic waste and pollutants they inevitably create. This future cost is very expensive as well. We can easily do better than we are currently doing! It is a political choice to be wasteful and not recycle. Let's change this scenario!

Houghton and Hancock are renegotiating their Waste Collection contracts this spring, and our city councils have an opportunity to include a curbside recycling service for every household in both cities within these multi-year contracts.

It is great that Hancock has a curbside recycling system in place, and those who worked many years ago to make it happen should be thanked for their hard work. The City Council should be thanked for considering a modern recycling program in their future waste hauling contracts, one that is more comprehensive.

Hancock's system will not change unless they want to have a private recycler; e.g., one Wisconsin company would distribute two bins to every household, one for garbage and one for all recyclables, and the recycling would be collected bi-weekly most likely. If you read the MTU report by Richelle Winkler's class, the cost of such a program may actually cost LESS than Hancock is paying now and it would collect a lot more recycling than does the current program where most residents do not use it and the recycling rate is poor.** 

Currently, all of the recycling collected in Hancock (and Houghton too) is trucked to a company in Wisconsin, and Hancock PAYS $70/ton to give it to them.

We are hoping for a more REGIONAL scale for the recycling system with both Hancock and Houghton joining in a good system involving every household. We feel if such a system is in place it can only grow to neighboring localities. Recycling is essentially a mining operation, and the greater the concentration of resources the more viable it is economically. It is an economy of scale.

I urge all of you who wish to have a recycling program here to write or call your City Council members and express your support for a CURBSIDE RECYCLING SERVICE to be included in the upcoming contracts. You must act now if you wish to enact change. Our elected officials need to know they have public support for a recycling program, one that is long overdue. This contact information is listed below. Your call or letter WILL make a difference. Thanks for taking action.

David Hall

* See "Michigan Tech students publish report on waste management, recycling in Houghton, Hancock, Michigan Tech."

** See pp. 38-40 of the report, "Waste and Recycling Programs in Hancock and Houghton, Michigan, and Michigan Technological University."


City of Houghton
616 Sheldon Ave.
Houghton, MI 49931
City Manager: Eric Waara

City of Hancock City Hall
399 Quincy Street
Hancock, MI 49930
906-482-2720 [phone]
906-482-7910 [FAX]
City Manager: Glenn Anderson
cell: 906-458-9101

(Inset photo: David Hall. Photo courtesy David Hall)

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