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Recycling Center undergoing upgrades to paper sorting

Will be temporarily closed to residential drop offs

The Kent County Recycling & Education Center at 977 Wealthy St. SW is scheduling upgrades to improve efficiency and quality by replacing the mechanical screens used to sort paper. Renovations will take place starting Monday, Feb. 24 and last until approximately Friday, March 13. The facility will be closed and unable to accept recyclable materials, from both curbside and drop-off locations, for processing while new equipment is installed.

“Periodic upgrades and renovations, like the replacement of our paper screens, ensure the recycling facility is up-to-date and can efficiently and reliably process clean materials for recycling markets,” said Nic VanderVinne, Resource Recovery & Recycling Manager for the Kent County Department of Public Works. “The Kent County Recycling & Education Center allows residents to conveniently recycle materials with a single-stream sorting process, that requires we have screens to automate the sorting process for materials like glass, metal, plastic and paper.”

Paper accounts for 70% of the processed material at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center (REC). In 2019, the Kent County REC processed 16,692 tons of paper product, the equivalent of 283,764 trees. The facility sorts out at least a truckload of paper every day. The screens used to sort paper are original equipment from when the Kent County REC opened in 2010 and have run for over 30,000 operational hours.

“The recycling industry has changed significantly in the past few years due to increased global import restrictions,” said Dar Baas, director of Kent County Department of Public Works. “It’s imperative we make improvements to keep producing a high-quality product in a very competitive domestic market.”

The Post contacted Arrowaste, Inc., the main garbage provider here in Cedar Springs, and asked if this will impact our curbside pickup of recycling in any way.

“The Kent County shut-down update applies to drop off stations for residents, but not to haulers at this time, so your services will continue as scheduled unless otherwise communicated,” said an Arrowaste spokesperson.

The Kent County Recycling & Education Center is approaching its 10th year of single-stream recycling. Over the past decade, the center has undergone periodic maintenance and upgrades to adapt to changes in community recycling habits and packaging trends. In 2017, Kent County added equipment to accept paper cartons and improve automation.

“We are giving advance notice to ensure residents can get as much of their existing recycling picked up and recycled before the February 24 temporary closure,” said Baas. “We understand this is inconvenient but it’s necessary to ensure we can continue to be a reliable processor of recyclables for the region.”

Updates and more information on the temporary closure will be available at www.reimaginetrash.org or call 616-632-7945.

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Rare butterflies make news

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Human health is aided by rare butterfly protection. Long term human economic interests are protected by aiding endangered butterflies. There are short term economic expenses that create concerns whether effort should maintain healthy habitats that serve people, butterflies and other organisms. Maintaining components of an ecosystem does not make sense to some people.

Paul Ehrlich described the importance well. He said if you are flying on a jet and a rivet pops off, it is not too concerning. When additional rivets holding the plane together come off, passenger concern increases. When enough rivets disappear the plane will dismember and crash, killing all on board.

Species in habitats are like rivets on a plane. There is little concern when one species disappears. As more disappear, our human economy and health falters when ecological services fail. Many cases document ecosystem simplification that caused human economic loss and death. The famous potato famine is just one example causing massive human death and a country’s economic collapse.

In 2000, a West Michigan Butterfly Association member, Kathy Bowler, discovered a population of the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly along the White Pine Trail in Algoma Township. Kent County was not known to have this species. Mo Nielsen and I verified the identification. Successful efforts by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan established the Maas Preserve to protect the habitat.

The Grand Rapids Press interviewed Leon Uplinger and me. Leon was Algoma township supervisor at the time. The press reported Leon thought all the fuss over a few butterflies is a waste of time and he did not expect the township to join any preservation efforts. He further stated, “I take the position that I would rather help a human life rather than another creature.”

I was invited to address community members in the Berrien Springs area regarding a different endangered species back then. The least expensive highway construction would likely impact the survival of the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly and possibly push it to extinction. An alternative that protected the environment costed more money but protected the environment, sustaining human community health. Some people felt like Leon did about the Karner Blue and some thought the habitat needed protection.

When our focus is narrow, we do not recognize how other creatures and the environment maintain economic, social, and environmental health for us, our kids, and future generations. The Karner Blue and Mitchell Satyr are rivets in the local ecosystem. Losing them is like losing two rivets from a jet. Environmental components needed by butterflies are also needed by humans. Nature Niches are connected in ways that are not obvious but they serve humans and other creatures.

The Mitchell Satyr depends on groundwater instead of surface water to support its habitat. The water picks up minerals and carries them to surface wetlands that support a unique variety of fen organisms that would not otherwise survive. The fen water feeds surface streams maintaining water quality. The wetlands serve human uses beyond simply saving a few butterflies. The least expensive highway proposed would damage surface habitat and groundwater with negative impact on human communities.

The short view was that greater expense to protect the environment and butterfly hurt people economically. The long view was that a greater expense protected the butterfly, community groundwater supplies, filtered pollutants from getting into surface water, enhanced fishing and hunting habitat, protected farmland, maintained pristine habitat for human enjoyment and maintained essential ecological functions provided by many species. Do you support the short or long view? Protection of the Endangered Species Act takes the long view. Efforts continue to undermine and eliminate the Endangered Species Act. Political parties are now separated by short and long view efforts.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net or Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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