Kent County reopening recycling facilities

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The Kent County Department of Public Works said the Kent County Recycling & Education Center at 977 Wealthy St. SW will resume accepting recyclable material starting Monday. Courtesy Kent County Department of Public Works

Kent County is reopening its recycling facilities after instituting COVID-19 safety procedures.

The Kent County Department of Public Works said Thursday that the Kent County Recycling & Education Center at 977 Wealthy St. SW will resume accepting recyclable material starting Monday, after the five-week shutdown due to COVID-19.

The residential recycling drop-off stations at North Kent Recycling & Waste Center and the Recycling Center also will reopen that day.

Neither facility will be open on Saturdays at this time.

Kent DPW closed the Recycling & Education Center on March 27 to prevent Kent County staff and other workers from being exposed to COVID-19.

Since then, the DPW has put in place appropriate measures such as prescreening workers, increased cleaning frequency at workstations, staggering workstations to meet social distancing rules and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep the recycling center’s 40 workers safe as they come back to work.

“We thank residents who have stored their recyclables during the shutdown for their patience and commitment to recycling and reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills,” said Kristen Wieland, Kent County DPW communications manager. “We encourage anyone with recyclables piling up in their garages to begin putting them out at the curb for collection now that we’re operating again.”

In addition to worker safety, the shutdown was necessary due to disruptions in recycling markets for processed materials. As other manufacturing processors shut down their facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kent County DPW’s ability to get recyclables to processors and end users was constricted. Kent County DPW has confirmed material sorted at the recycling center will be accepted by processors.

In March, the Recycling & Education Center received upgrades to its paper sorting equipment. These upgrades will improve the quality of paper sent to paper mills and will “significantly” reduce the daily maintenance time spent keeping the screens clean, according to the DPW. The upgraded equipment also helps to keep workers safe by avoiding tangles that forced equipment shutdowns in the past.

The DPW urges residents with stockpiled materials to recycle to follow the established guidelines for recycling in Kent County, which are available in the recycling guide on its website. If residents have been storing materials for recycling in bags or other containers, they are asked to remove all materials from bags before dropping them off or placing them in a recycling cart. If residents use a recycling drop-off station, they are reminded to keep 6 feet of distance between themselves and other recyclers.

“We’ve heard countless stories from dedicated recyclers who have been holding on to their recyclables and now have overflowing garages,” Wieland said. “I’m sure people are excited to get some of their space back, knowing their recycling is going to get processed and put back into new products.”

Residents can share the creative ways they have stored their recycling or their accumulation of recycling during the shutdown on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #returnofrecycling or by emailing a picture to recycle@kentcountymi.gov.

The Kent County DPW operates municipal solid waste disposal and recycling facilities to ensure the safe and effective disposal of residential and commercial solid waste. Additionally, DPW operates the Kent County Waste-to-Energy Facility, a waste processing electrical generation facility.

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