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Recycling jumps 80% in Grand Rapids with single-stream carts

Recyclign bin in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
My single stream recycle bin.

Recycling is up 80-percent since the City of Grand Rapids instituted a new single-stream recycling program. With single-stream people can put all kinds of stuff - glass, plastic, cardboard and paper - into a single cart (no sorting needed). The city picks up the recyclable stuff at the curb for free.

“Grand Rapids’ highly successful new recycling services are good for residents wishing to lower their refuse disposal costs, it is good for the City as it has lowered our refuse costs, and it’s good for our environment,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell

Grand Rapids Public Services Director James Hurt says he knew the recycling rate in the city was high, but the increase surprised even him. “We’re just ecstatic about how this community has responded,” Hurt said.

Hurt says the city will save at least $100,000 a year because there’s less regular trash to pay to incinerate. Grand Rapids residents pay for each garbage bag they toss, so Hurt says people who end up recycling save more money.

Plus, residents get points for recycling at mygrcitypoints.com. The website offers deals at locally owned businesses. Residents who sign up on the webpage can get discounts on everything from flowers, to veterinary services, to hot yoga.

Hurt says there has been a learning curve with single-stream carts as far as what can and can't be recycled. He says diapers, yard waste, and kitty litter have shown up in the carts. He says the city usually can work with people to figure this out; but he says the city has had to take recycling carts away from some people who can't or won't follow the recycling guidelines. 

This summer Grand Rapids will make more changes to its solid waste program. Hurt says the savings should get rid of the three-tenths of a mil property tax designated for refuse. The city would pay for trash pickup through fees alone.

In a press release the city says the new integrated solid waste program will:

  1. realign fees and property tax support
  2. lower taxes
  3. reduce  fees  to residents 
  4. improve customer service
  5. improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods by reducing litter from broken bags at the curb
  6. reduce City employee injuries
  7. improve the environmental impact of disposing of our community’s waste
  8. incent residents to reduce refuse and increase recycling.
Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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