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Kent County works to educate residents about new recycling rules

Kent County will no longer recycle shredded paper or plastic bags

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kent County resident have noticed changes with recycling rules over these past few weeks. The Kent County Recycling & Education Center will no longer accept plastic shopping bags and shredded paper starting. The new rules went became effective January 1, 2020 and concern both drop-off sites and curbside services.

We have learned those materials do not run through our system well. They create issues with our machines. You can tell when they come in they are dirty and ripped. They wrap around the machines, creating issues. We want people to bundle these bags up and drop them off at a Meijer location. That is the best way to extend the life cycle of those," says Kyle Shoemaker, the recycling facility supervisor.  "As far as shredded paper, we know people want to do the right thing. They think the shredded paper is going recycling home but when it goes through our system and mixes with the glass it creates contamination issues either for the paper or glass."

Credit: Angela Cunningham

Changes does not always come easy, but Shoemaker says the new rules are in alignment with recycling industry standards and are important for the facility to operate efficiently and effectively. He says people are beginning to comply.

"We have heard great response from the community. There is huge buy-in from Kent County residents. They want to see recycling succeed and they want us to be able to remarket this material within the Great Lakes region and not have contamination," says Shoemaker. "Anytime our machines have problems and down time that hurts everyone. We just have to make sure we get the word out. Our website ReImagineTrash.org is the best place to reference what we do or don't take.

Credit: Angela Cunningham

Shoemaker does not believe the changes will discourage people from recycling.

"It is not a huge concern, if people are committed to it. I think there are a lot of hug misconceptions about what we do and don't recycle here. I call it wishful recycling. Sometimes people through things in the bin wishing and hoping they will end up in the right place but sending it to this facility is not the right way to do it," he says.  "We move about 100 semi-trucks of baled material out every month."

The Kent County DPW encourages residents to take bags back to retail shopping centers that offer a clean, dry collection system specifically for bags or to use reusable bags for their purchases.

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