KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The Kent County Recycling and Education Center will no longer be accepting plastic shopping bags and shredded paper, the Kent County Department of Public Works announced Tuesday.

According to Kent County DPW, plastic bags create operational challenges at recycling sorting centers, including shutdowns from the bags tangling around machinery and bags mixing with bales of paper.

Lacking a recycling market for bags from curbside recycling collection, Kent County has paid to send them to an engineered fuel facility in Indiana. They say this is the only recyclable item sorted in Kent County that does not go to a recycling market.

The initiative will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

“Our goal is to get all materials that come into our facility into recycling markets,” said Dar Baas, Kent County DPW director. “Over the last several years, it has become increasingly difficult to sort bags from the other recyclables and the bags aren’t able to be recycled after they pass through a system like ours.”

Kent County DPW says the recycling industry standard is to encourage residents to take bags back to retail shopping centers that offer a clean, dry collection system specifically for bags. If residents have clear, dry plastic bags they want to recycle, Kent County DPW encourages people to drop off bags at participating stores like Meijer.

“All Meijer supercenters accept clean, dry plastic bags which customers can place in receptacles at the front entrances of the store,” said Erik Petrovskis, Director of Sustainability for Meijer. “We send these bags to external partners who recycle them into high-quality manufactured goods. We also encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags or purchase reusable bags which are available in our stores.”

Shredded paper is often too small to get detected and sorted accordingly, Kent County DPW says. Residents are encouraged to shred and dispose of only what is necessary for security purposes and recycle whole pieces of paper.

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