EREF launches survey on anaerobic digestion facilities

The Houghton County Board of Commissioners and the Copper Country Recycling Initiative (CCRI) have kicked off the county’s first-ever recycling initiative. The trial program began April 22, Earth Day, and will last three months, CCRI Co-chair Carol Ekstrom says.

“Before this, there weren’t any countywide recycling programs,” Ekstrom says. “This is a beautiful area, and we need to maintain it.”

Those interested in recycling can bring their materials to the Transfer Station in Atlantic Mine between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The service costs $5 for each residential load and $10 for each commercial load. Recyclables must be separated from trash before dropping them off at the bin. Workers from Houston-based Waste Management will handle collection, County Commissioner Tom Tikkanen says.

The bin will be emptied as needed and will be transferred to Marquette County’s Recycle 906 facility. The material recovery facility (MRF) was built last year and provides recycling services to the surrounding counties. Machinex designed the facility, which uses its SamurAI robots to sort scrap. Tikkanen says that the program’s cost is $275 every time a 1-ton container is filled and taken to the facility.

“Recycling is a daunting task in our county because of our location,” Tikkanen says. “The county can’t afford recycling services without asking residents to vote on a levy. This way, we can give residents an option to recycle without a millage request.”

A Zoom meeting April 26 will help residents understand what they can and can’t recycle. Bradley Austin, the director of RECYCLE 906, will introduce the recycling program, offer guidelines and requirements for accepted materials and answer questions, Ekstrom says.

Tikkanen says only two cities in the county, Hancock and Houghton, have recycling contracts with Waste Management, while the rest of the county throws their recyclables away. The communities surrounding the cities are village/unincorporated governments. However, a survey conducted last year showed that more than 70 percent of the county was interested in recycling. 

This program has been in the making since 2015 when the CCRI was formed. The program is part of a larger push by the state to increase its recycling rate from 18.5 percent to 30 percent in 2025. Eventually, the state would like to increase that to 40 percent, The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) says.

Recently, EGLE announced the launch of a new recycling effort called NextCycle Michigan. The program will help fund infrastructure investment to promote the development of markets for recycled materials and recycled products, including manufacturing.

“We want to cut down the number of recyclables going into the landfill,” Tikkanen says. “Because we are a remote community, this is a good first step.”

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