The Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award honors individuals and businesses who have made an outstanding contribution to Recycling in Emmet County. To nominate someone for the award contact Kate Melby at 231-348-0640 or via email.
When David Meikle and Steve Steffes opened their first restaurant in Petoskey, Tap30, they immediately signed up for Emmet County Recycling’s (ECR) curbside collection service. When ECR piloted collection of food scraps and other compostables from businesses in 2015, Tap30 was one of the inaugural customers. And they haven’t stopped taking on new sustainability initiatives since! The partners soon added Pour Kitchen and Bar, one door west of Tap30 on Mitchell Street. Then Meikle and his wife Missy built The Back Lot, a bar “with food trucks” right behind Tap30 at 425 Michigan Street. Each step of the way, as their enterprises grew, the partners and their staff took action to minimize and recover wastes from the businesses. For this proactive approach to reducing, reusing and recycling, the three restaurants and their owners have been named Emmet County Recycling’s 2019 Recycler of the Year Award winners.
As Emmet County Recycling’s commercial food scraps collection pilot proceeded, ECR staff checked in with the businesses about how it was going. In late 2015, ECR Recycling Outreach leader Lindsey Walker contacted Tap30 sous chef Justin Reyes and chef Brian Roberts to get their feedback. The two chefs reported that they were very food-waste conscious. Walker noted that they used consumer flow charts and tracked trends to be as prepared as possible to control ordering and production based on need, projecting out a year-long calendar based on business and events. Collecting the food scraps for composting (separate from the trash), they reported, was helpful not only because the scraps were composted, but because it allowed them to actually see and track their food waste. And then the chefs went on to ask if their Handy-Wacks basket-liner papers were compostable! (Answer: no, the wax isn’t compostable.)
Since then Tap30 and Pour have continued to carefully analyze their waste and seek alternatives to prevent or recover waste. They serve on real dishes and are always on the lookout for better environmental options. “We were just talking about how we are down to two ‘waste items’ left: adhesive napkin bands and take-out sauce cups. We are actively looking for better alternatives,” said the group’s marketing lead, Sandra Thomas.
“For David and his team, sustainability is not an afterthought,” Walker said. “They were thinking about these issues before they even implemented the businesses.”
The Back Lot, which the Miekle’s built from the ground up offered even more opportunities for such planning. The Back Lot is open year round, but especially features a large beer garden which hosts food trucks in the warmer months. The Lot is a “zero-waste” business, reducing, reusing, recycling or composting over 90% of the waste they generate. The bar uses glassware and offers compostable straws only upon request. From the get go, the food trucks serving at The Back Lot (TBL) have been required to use only compostable serviceware approved by Emmet County Recycling for composting at their Pleasantview Road Drop-off Center. Walker explained, “We have to be careful; there are plastic forks, knives and spoons on the market that claim to be compostable, but which won’t break down in our piles. We ask businesses and events that plan to compost waste with us to check in before they buy ‘compostable’ service ware to make sure they are getting one of the brands we can process. No one wants plastic in their compost!”
As a result of this pre-planning, TBL customers can simply toss their utensils, boats and plates right in the compost bin with any food scraps leftover from their meal. “I don’t want to misrepresent; there is some waste. But for the most part it is just what customers bring in with them, for example, baby food packaging,” said David Miekle.
In building The Back Lot, the Miekles designed in room for recycling infrastructure—a must on the otherwise tight alley—and put in a cistern to store rainwater collected from the roof. The water will be used for their decorative plantings. “And I just got done meeting with a guy to get a quote to do solar on the roof. In the summer we should be able to generate all the electricity The Back Lot uses,” said David Miekle.
ECR asks everyone to help them thank the Tap30, Pour, and Back Lot teams for their sustainability efforts and to congratulate them on their Recycler of the Year Award win.
For more information on Emmet County’s Recycler of the Year Award or to nominate an individual, institution, or business for the award, visit EmmetRecycling.org or call Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator at 231-348-0640.
Over 80% of Emmet County households recycle through the county’s system and recycling staff report constantly hearing from enthusiastic residents saying they, “recycle everything!” But even in a community of avid recyclers, the Grain Train Natural Foods Markets stand out for their deep recycling ethic. Saturday, April 28, the markets—which are cooperatively owned by roughly 2,800 area individuals and families—were honored with Emmet County Recycling’s 2018 Recycler of the Year Award.
The Grain Train’s Petoskey market’s recycling efforts are evident from the moment customers walk in the door: stacks of blue crates in the foyer are ready to receive reusable old-fashioned glass milk bottles from Shetler’s Dairy in Kalkaska. Just inside the store proper, reusable fabric produce bags made from recycled pop bottles are for sale above the fresh broccoli and beets. (Though even the produce bags off the rolls are made from recycled material.) Toilet paper and paper towel options are 100% recycled content and up to 90% post-consumer recycled.
At the self-serve food bar, waste reduction is encouraged by racks of plates, bowls, and flatware. For those who must use a carry-out container, boxes and cups are ones carefully selected for sustainability and purchased “in bulk” by the National Co-op Grocer’s Association–of which the Grain Train is one of 147 members. As an example, Chelsea Jarvis, Operations Manager, noted, “They just changed the source of the coffee cups because the ink used to print the new ones is more sustainable.” The association’s member cooperatives also share best practices and data, challenging each other to reduce waste and energy use
While many stores and restaurants recycle from their behind-the-scenes operations, the Grain Train stands out for also offering recycling front-of-house, in other words, for its customers. This is difficult because thousands of customers can’t be trained on proper recycling in the way dozens of employees can be. Jarvis noted that putting actual pictures of the recyclable items customers use in the store on the bins has been key to getting the public recycling right. The front-of-house recycling even includes collecting food scraps, napkins and paper towels for composting.
The Grain Train was founded in Petoskey in 1971 and was reducing, reusing, and recycling long before Emmet County took over local recycling services in 1990 and began expanding them. From the get-go the market offered bulk foods—which reduce waste by allowing customers to buy just what they need–and encouraged customers to buy them in reusable jars. According to Dale Scott, who worked at the Grain Train from 1983-1993, customers also brought in their extra paper grocery bags for the store to use and, “We never bought any bags in the 10 years I worked there.” Employees and community members frequently took food scraps from the store home to feed pigs and chickens or to compost.
Through the years, employees and farmers have continued to reclaim food scraps from the Grain Train to feed livestock or to recycle by composting. Putting food waste to the best possible use has been a particular focus recently. With nearly 340,000 customer visits in 2017 the numbers really added up: the stores donated 6,156 pounds of imperfect produce to the Manna Food Project and an even greater volume of packaged groceries; local farmers took roughly 72,800 pounds to feed their animals or compost; and, to help keep up with volume, the store recycled another 7,168 pounds of food scraps through Emmet County’s commercial composting service.
Behind the scenes, the stores recycle large amounts of film plastic and cardboard, and support local suppliers’ reuse efforts, for example saving carrot bins for Country Gardens, trays for plants from Bear Creek Organics, and boxes for Providence Farm. “Waste reduction and recycling is what we do. It is how we conduct our business. We don’t see it as separate,” said Jarvis.
Kate Melby, Communications Coordinator for Emmet County Recycling, presented the recycling award to the Grain Train at the cooperative’s annual General Membership Meeting, held at North Central Michigan College’s cafeteria. Surveying the dinner, Melby said, “You can see their recycling ethic right here: at a casual, off-site event, most organizations would use disposable plates, cups, and plastic flatware. The Grain Train went with THE best zero-waste option: real linens and dishes. Love it!”
Emmet County’s 2016 Recycler of the Year Award winner began recycling long before they opened for business. “During construction—begun in 2005—one of the requirements the Tribe had was that everything that was recyclable be recycled,” explained Barry Laughlin, Odawa Casino Resort’s Director of Property Operations. Since opening in 2007, the Casino has been steadily growing their recycling efforts and shows no sign of stopping, earning them the 2016 Award.
Kate Mowbray, the Casino’s lead Wastewater Tech, is charged with heading up the recycling programs. According to Mowbray, when the Casino began operations in 2007, they started by just recycling cardboard, but soon added paper and mixed containers (including plastic containers, steel and aluminum cans, foil, glass and paper cartons). In recent years, they have recycled around 56 tons of cardboard and 14 tons of paper and containers annually.
They also regularly recover roughly 1,200 pounds of scrap metal, 300 pounds of batteries, and 1,000 pallets a year, the later largely reused in Casino operations and by employees. Electronics and ink cartridges are recycled too. Fluorescent bulbs were recycled, but are now being replaced with LED lighting to further improve energy efficiency. (Odawa Casino Resort won a First Place Governor’s Award for Energy Excellence in 2016.) When the uniforms for their employees—as many as 535—were last updated, the old were recycled.
Laughlin and Mowbray credit a couple of departments in particular with the success of the recycling programs. The Housekeeping staff, both at the Odawa Casino and the Hotel, is very supportive of recycling. “When they have something new—for example when replacing soap fixtures—they will come to us and ask if it is recyclable,” noted Mowbray. The Casino Maintenance Department is central to the system, hauling recyclables to the Pleasantview Road Drop-off Center.
The Stewards—essentially a specialized cleaning and stocking crew for the restaurants—have really stepped up for the Casino’s latest initiative: diverting food waste from the Waas-No-De buffet for composting. “If we didn’t have the stewarding department, we wouldn’t have recycling in the restaurants,” said Laughlin, adding shout outs to Executive Steward Sally Strauss and Stewarding Supervisor Aaron Figiel (whose nickname around the Casino is “Captain Planet”).
Emmet County has been offering collection and composting of food and floral scraps to a limited number of businesses the past two summers. Odawa signed up this summer and immediately became the program’s largest customer, diverting around 2,000 pounds of food waste a week to composting. Now the county is beginning to pilot winter food waste collection and the Casino is on board, figuring out all the logistics presented by the cold and ice.
Having the buffet’s food waste collected for composting allowed the Casino to reach a great milestone this past summer: they were able to reduce collection of garbage (handled using a waste compactor, as most large institutions do) from once every ten days to once every 20 days, saving the business tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Discussions are underway about a variety of next steps to increase the Casino’s recycling. At peak times of year, the recyclables exceed the system’s capacity to store and haul the materials. A baler on site has made cardboard storage and hauling more efficient and Laughlin and Mowbray are experimenting with baling the containers as well. They definitely plan to add food scraps collection at the Casino’s fine dining restaurant and employee cafeteria next summer.
Lindsey Walker, Emmet County Recycling Economic Development Liason summed up the Casino’s award win, saying, “The Casino stands out for the sheer volume of material they recycle, but also for the support their resource recovery programs receive from a wide range of staff. We appreciate the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa’s commitment to caring for the environment and look forward to working with the Casino/Resort team going forward, to keep them on the cutting edge of reducing, reusing and recycling.”
The 2013 winner of the Emmet County Recycler of the Year Award is a restaurant which celebrated its 10th anniversary this summer, yet has never purchased a coffee mug. Co-owner and Chef Julie Adams laughs it off as, “…because I’m too cheap to buy new!” but the reduce, reuse, recycle ethic clearly runs deeper than just saving money at Julienne Tomatoes.
So where do their coffee mugs come from? Whenever their supply of mugs gets low, they just put out the word—this year in a Facebook post–and people bring them mugs. Sometimes a business or institution will bring them a bunch of promotional mugs, but more often it’s just, “random people bringing random mugs.”
The décor at Julienne Tomatoes hangs together so harmoniously that customers might not consciously notice that the reuse goes beyond the coffee mugs. Tom Sheffler, the eponymous “tomato” partner in the venture, recalls that they got the tables and chairs second hand, here and there. “I don’t think we paid over $20 for a chair or over $60 for a table.” The big community table at the front of restaurant was a gift one of the leaders of the Young Americans. And much of the tomato-themed art on the walls also came to the pair as gifts from enthusiastic customers.
The partners’ frugality does not extend to the restaurant’s ingredients—they’re impeccably fresh, top-of-the-line and, as much as possible, local. But the reuse continues with the incoming packaging. Produce crates for Coveyou Scenic Farm and clean egg boxes and trays for Cook Family Farm are stacked neatly in the basement waiting to be reused. Their maple syrup and honey suppliers—Harwood Heritage in Charlevoix and Indian River Wilderness Honey–bottle their honey syrup in glass jugs which are sterilized and returned for refilling. On the other end, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council uses the restaurant’s 5-gallon pickle buckets for water sampling. Gallon glass jars are given away to happy reusers, too.
Recycling is a given at Julienne Tomatoes (JT). Asked if they recycled the first year they were open, before curbside recycling was available, Julie didn’t recall, “I can’t remember when we didn’t recycle,” she said. What is most remarkable about their recycling efforts is the way they take it beyond simply putting milk jugs, steel cans and the like in the bins. Tom put a picture of their small fleet of recycling bins, neatly set out at the curb, on the “We’re Involved” page of their web site. They have made a point of buying paper towels manufactured by Great Lakes Tissue in Cheboygan which are made from recycled paper cartons–including JT’s half-and-half cartons recycled through Emmet County–and then posted about it on Facebook. Amazed that, “…the kids don’t know,” they teach any new employees who don’t already participate how to recycle. They have repeatedly donated lovely breakfasts for staff meetings at the Emmet County Recycling Center (held at 6:30 a.m. before all the trucks head out). They even pop out and give their recycling truck driver a soda or coffee!
Julienne Tomatoes helps their customers recycle, too. Julie abhors Styrofoam and makes a point of choosing recyclable containers for carry out, even though they cost considerably more. Their trays for carry-out hot entrees are dishwasher safe and reusable, while frozen take-and-bake entrees come in an aluminum pan with a recyclable plastic lid.
Despite their outstanding reuse and recycling efforts, Julie and Tom and their staff are not satisfied to rest on their laurels. The next frontier for them, recycling-wise, is composting their kitchen scraps. A local farmer has approached them about picking up their back-of-house compostables to enrich the soil on his farm.
In presenting JT’s Recycler of the Year Award, Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer said, “Your recycling—and reuse–is as outstanding as your cooking and that’s saying a lot! Thank you for recycling and for your support of Emmet County Recycling.” Seltzer encourages everyone to stop by Julienne Tomatoes, buy a sandwich, congratulate them, and give them a stray mug.
Emmet County Recycling’s 2012 Recycler of the Year Award winner has small town roots, but international reach. Travel to any city and the company’s goods are likely underfoot: production one day recently included fire hydrants for Chicago, tree grates for Philadelphia, and manhole covers for Bell Canada. In total their products are used in 140 countries and, following numerous acquisitions over the past 25 years, their operations span five continents. The winner is EJ, formerly known in this area as East Jordan Iron Works. Along with its corporate headquarters, one of the company’s two U.S. foundries is located in East Jordan. EJ also has a water products machining, assembly and manufacturing facility in the area.
While 2012’s is Emmet County’s 11th Recycler of the Year award presentation, the East Jordan Foundry is the first manufacturing facility using recycled materials from the Emmet County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF, or recycle processing facility) to win the award. EJ cast iron products average 85% recycled content. This recycled content includes steel (“tin”) cans from the Emmet County MRF: those recycled by residents of Charlevoix, Emmet, Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties. However these are the only cans used as EJ feedstock because the blocks of cans produced by most MRFs are of a size and consistency that aren’t compatible with handling equipment at the East Jordan foundry. More typical sources include auto scrap, obsolete scrap appliances and steel from demolition of buildings collected by scrap metal yards, like A&L in Gaylord.
EJ has been buying bricked (compressed into blocks) cans from the ECMRF since 2001. Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer remembers developing the system. “When we approached EJ about recycling our tin cans, they informed us we’d need special sorting techniques and equipment to meet their specifications,” she said. “Eager to secure a local market, in 2001 we found a used bricker and had it refurbished. It is still in use today.” The “bricks” are about the size of a microwave oven and weigh roughly 90 pounds each. In 2011 EJ bought 104 tons of bricked cans from the ECMRF.
“We’re constantly working to develop uses for our waste streams,” said Tom Teske, EJ Americas Vice President and General Manager. Recycling at EJ is part of the process as well as the product. They recycle all of their paper through a shredding company and collect cardboard, bottles and cans as well. Hazardous materials like fluorescent lamps, aerosol cans, and electronics are recycled, too. Even their office building is reused: a portion of the headquarters structure was at one time a creamery.
Foundry byproducts from melting and molding processes are their biggest out-bound recyclables. Slag—a gritty, tan mineral material produced in the melting process—is spread on area dirt roads in place of sand to improve traction when conditions are icy. The green sand which makes up casting molds is reused in production, then, at the end of its usable life, a lot of it is used by St. Mary’s Cement in Charlevoix.
From these green beginnings, EJ infrastructure access products go on to green futures. Teske noted that they serve important functions in water, sewer and energy distribution systems. And though the creation and distribution of cast iron products is energy intensive, they are very long lasting. Because of their recycled content, EJ products are often used by architects and engineers to help earn points toward achieving LEED (green building) certification for their construction projects. Their cast iron fixtures are naturally rust resistant and do not require any finish coating. And finally, at end of their useful life, they can be recycled once again.
For more information on the company visit them on the web at www.ejco.com.
Emmet County has awarded Circuit Controls Corporation (CCC), a subsidiary of Yazaki North America, its 2011 Recycler of the Year award for achieving zero waste in its facility.
CCC, a tier-two automotive supplier, produces connectors for wire harness manufacturers throughout the world. This year they will manufacture seven billion connectors, while creating near zero waste in the process.
CCC is also a highly responsible environmental leader. A Michigan Clean Corporate Citizen, CCC’s environmental management system is International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 certified. In recognition of their outstanding recycling efforts reflected in the Zero Waste designation, Friday, December 9, CCC received Emmet County Recycling’s 2011 Recycler of the Year Award.
“Zero Waste” is a philosophy that promotes product life cycle management in order to eliminate unusable waste. CCC’s Zero Waste initiative began as a corporate directive from Yazaki to reduce waste going to landfills to less than one percent of 2006 levels. CCC has exceeded the goal, reducing its waste stream to three-tenths of one percent of its 2006 level. While truly remarkable, this achievement is part of a larger environmental bright spot. A 2004 survey found that more than 2,700 Japanese companies had achieved 90 percent reductions in their landfill waste.
CCC’s produces electrical terminals-tiny pairs of sockets and plugs that are crimped onto the ends of the wires in wiring harnesses. The wiring harnesses are used to distribute power for the electrical systems in vehicles. The terminals are cut from shiny ribbons of copper by 47 high speed stamping presses. In 2010 they shipped 6.4 billion terminals in approximately 265 different designs, supplying automakers around the world. The facility employs approximately 150 people and recently reported that it expects that number to grow to 200 by 2017.
How does a company reduce waste going to the landfill so dramatically? Recycling is the bulk of it. According to data provided by Jack George, Environmental, Health and Safety Manager at CCC, through October of this year CCC has recycled:
Discussing the process, George highlighted the role of the local recycling program, “Emmet County Recycling (ECR) has been an important partner in our efforts to reach Zero Waste. With the addition of new plastics and other items to their recyclable list, we have been able to recycle even more. Our major accomplishments in this area have been to recycle label backer (paper) and plastic banding. Additionally, I’m thankful for our growing relationship with ECR and their willingness to explore new options and opportunities to keep our wastes out of local landfills.”
In addition to their recycling efforts, CCC also follows a robust reuse process, treating their own waste water in a closed loop system with no discharge. Their mop water is filtered and reused in a system which captures oils and bits of scrap metal for recycling. They have worked with suppliers to redesign packaging to be returned to the supplier and reused.
The list of CCC waste reduction, reuse and recycling initiatives are generated by employee insights into the processes they manage. Two 2011 additions are filtering and reusing oil applied to the stamping dies and collecting employees’ personal recyclables on the factory floor and in the lunch room.
“CCC’s constant efforts to improve their processes to make them less wasteful are very impressive,” said Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer. “They’re systematic about it and it has really paid off, both on their bottom line and in their disappearing waste dumpsters.”
About Yazaki Yazaki Corporation is a global leader in the research, development and delivery of vehicle power and data solutions for vehicle applications. Yazaki produces electrical distribution systems, Vehicle Information Products, solid-state power centers, connection systems and electronics. Worldwide, the company employs nearly 200,000 people in 39 countries. Yazaki has been committed to the preservation of the environment for over 70 years. The company continues this commitment today through the development of advanced electric components for hybrid electric vehicles, the promotion of recycling and the efficient use of resources. For more information about Yazaki North America, Inc. and its vision for a greener tomorrow, log onto www.yazaki-na.com.
When Denny YoungeDyke was hired as Facilities Director for the Public Schools of Petoskey in 2005, he immediately made his mark in the minds of the staff of Emmet County Recycling (ECR). “Despite the efforts of many parent and staff volunteers, recycling at the schools had been rather hit or miss, but as soon as Denny came on board, he called us up and wanted to take it to the max,” said Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator. “We were in awe!”
In recognition of all the schools have accomplished under YoungeDyke’s leadership, Emmet County has awarded the Public Schools of Petoskey its 2010 Recycler of the Year. A plaque was presented to YoungeDyke at the school board meeting on Nov. 18.
YoungDyke downplays his role and points to Lindsey Walker, who sets up commercial accounts for ECR, and the staff at various schools for the district’s recycling success. “Lindsey has been amazing. She’s always got more ideas to help us move forward and energy and enthusiasm to make it happen,” he said. And he gives a great deal of credit to the school custodians as well. “When I first met with them, I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about it [increasing recycling], but they were all about it. They all realize the value of it.”
Emmet County Recycling had previously recognized the Petoskey school district for initiating a program to pick up paper for recycling on its inter-school mail route and delivering it to the Dunham’s drop site. However, what was collected at each school and how much depended on parent and staff volunteers.
In 2005, YoungDyke signed the schools up for the then-new curbside recycling program to collect the paper. Custodians work with students at each school to collect the paper and get it out to the curb each week. “We make a point to involve the students as much as possible in the process.” YoungDyke said. “The special education departments, led by Melanie Wagner at the Middle School and George Armstrong at the High School, and their students have really taken this on. At the elementary schools different classes and groups have taken the lead – usually the older kids who are more able to lift the bins.”
With paper recycling off the ground, YoungeDyke went on to increase the efficiency of the schools’ cardboard recycling, and soon added collection of metal and plastic containers from the schools’ kitchens. Next came collecting water and juice bottles at basketball and football games. The schools also recycle their fluorescent light bulbs, electronics, and batteries.
The impact has been substantial. In 2009 the schools recycled roughly 100 tons of paper, conserving an estimated 1,700 trees and enough energy to power 14 homes for a year.
Fiscally, recycling and waste reduction have been wins too. In 2005, the schools spent $32,000 on garbage disposal. In 2010, that number was down to $22,000. According to YoungeDyke, Ottawa School, for example, has gone from 12 yards of garbage a week to eight yards a week. And at Lincoln they’ve gone from 12 yards a week to four a week. “We work with Little Traverse Disposal and Arvin Warner, the owner, there has been wonderful, actually letting us know when we’re not using the full capacity of our Dumpsters and suggesting downsizing.”
Lincoln Elementary School brings another recycling standout to YoungeDyke’s mind: Marta Dennis. The school has created a “Simple Six” program to educate students about waste disposal at lunch. And at Dennis’ initiative, the PTO bought a bin to compost food scraps. YoungeDyke helped them locate a used greenhouse to house the composter over the winter. “They haven’t made enough dirt yet, but eventually they want to use the dirt from the composting to raise vegetables and then eat the vegetables in the lunchroom,” he explained.
Asked what’s behind his commitment to recycling, YoungeDyke laughed and said, “My wife, Diane. She’s a huge recycler.” “I live in Gaylord,” he continued, “I come over the hill into Petoskey in the morning and see the Bay. Do we want to pollute northern Michigan? I’m hoping to have grandkids soon and I want them to see the same thing when they come over that hill. I look back to when we didn’t [recycle] and think, ‘What were we thinking?’ It just makes sense. When it doesn’t cost more? Why not?”
Still, YoungeDyke sees more potential for more recycling at the schools. “We’re not capturing nearly all the paper we could. And we could reduce waste more too. For example, staff are starting to get into the thought process: Think before you print. Can I get this information out electronically instead of making copies? We could use a lot less copy paper.” To that end, YoungeDyke authored a Waste Reduction Plan for the Schools which aims for constant improvement in waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The goals are both to save resources and to educate.
“Recycling in schools has a special place in our hearts,” said Elisa Seltzer, Director of Emmet County Recycling. “Of course they’re large institutions and generate a lot of material, but it goes way beyond that. Recycling in schools helps spread the message that this is what we do with discards in Emmet County: we harness them to conserve the environment, supply industry, and create jobs. Denny YoungeDyke and the Petoskey Public Schools have been wonderful partners to work with.
“Going green” is all the rage, so it is wise to take green claims with a grain of salt. However, when Northern Michigan Regional Hospital’s summer 2007 Community Connection newsletter said, “While the health of their patients is number one, the health of their environment is a close second for the employees of Northern Michigan Regional Hospital,” they weren’t blowing smoke. Now, their extensive recycling efforts have earned them Emmet County Recycling’s 2009 Recycler of the Year Award. Emmet County Recycling Director Elisa Seltzer presented the award to the Hospital on Tuesday, December 8.
“I always knew there was a lot of interest in recycling among the hospital’s staff,” said Emmet County Recycling (ECR) Communications Coordinator Kate Melby. “We’d periodically receive calls from hospital ‘colleagues’―as they call them―asking for input on setting up recycling. And if I was at the hospital with my family, whenever my line of work came up in conversation the colleagues would invariably have questions about recycling materials from their department. Now we’ve really seen that commitment come to fruition as they’ve made dozens of changes to reduce, recycle, and reuse.”
Linda Ward, Senior Director of Hospitality Services, gets much of the credit for the Hospital’s recycling accomplishments, according to Lindsey Walker who sets up commercial accounts for Emmet County Recycling. “Linda is a go-getter. She coordinates recycling and really brought it all together.”
In 2008, Northern Michigan Regional Hospital recycled over 50% of the 786.5 tons of waste generated by their operations. Recycling included: 39 tons of cardboard, 1.8 tons of #1 and #2 plastics, 3 tons of aluminum cans, 1.36 tons of batteries, and roughly ¾ ton each of steel cans and fluorescent light bulbs. Paper didn’t go to waste either: 179 tons were recycled with medical documents pre-shredded by a professional document destruction company. In addition, 92.5 tons of stone, rubber and concrete were recycled when the main building’s roof was replaced with a better insulating material.
The Hospital reduced waste by switching from bottled water to washable cups for patient meals, meetings, and events and by encouraging employees to tag their e-mails with a tree logo and the line, “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”
A new needle disposal system prevented 24.58 tons of waste by simply replacing disposable sharps containers with a service which provides ones which are sterilized, inspected and reused. “We go through roughly 200 sharps containers a week,” explained Ward.
In all, through recycling and reuse the hospital prevented 392.3 tons of waste in 2008. That’s not the end of the story, though. “They’re always looking for that next thing to recycle,” said Walker. Most recently the Hospital asked her about recycling #5 plastic tray covers. “We’re looking into it,” Walker continued, “They’re an ideal partner for us to try out new things.”
The colleagues’ commitment to recycling extends even beyond the Hospital’s offerings, Walker shared, “Lillian Hart-Baker organized a shoe drive which collected 1,000 pairs of shoes for reuse through Soles for Souls.”
“We salute Northern Michigan Regional Hospital for their exceptional recycling efforts,” said Elisa Seltzer, Director of Emmet County Recycling. “Changes in housekeeping systems are particularly difficult for medical facilities due to the numerous standards with which they must comply. Despite these very real challenges, recycling has taken off at the Hospital in the last four years and both the volumes they’re achieving and their attitude are outstanding.”