2005-05-20 / Top News

Island Trash Service Mixes Economics, Environmental Concerns, Education

By Leslie Rott

Michael Fawcett and Al Brown, who work for Mackinac Island Service Company, collect trash downtown. 
Michael Fawcett and Al Brown, who work for Mackinac Island Service Company, collect trash downtown.

An ever-evolving process, Mackinac Island Department of Public Works and its Solid Waste Handling Facility have been working more than 10 years to create a program that emphasizes resident education in its waste management.

Since Mackinac Island’s landfill closed in May 1992, garbage has to be shipped off the Island. Today, garbage is sent to an Eastern Upper Peninsula landfill in Dafter and the city has adopted a three-bin sorting system that promotes recycling and minimizes the amount of solid waste that has to be shipped off the Island.

Seagulls bombard a pile of horse manure, which is being mixed with shredded paper for compost.
Seagulls bombard a pile of horse manure, which is being mixed with shredded paper for compost. This system has helped city’s Department of Public Works to operate its solid waste program without the need for additional taxes. User fees and the money the city receives by selling recyclable materials, like cardboard, magazines, glass, plastic, tin, aluminum, and compost help to defray costs.

“It’s all about cost savings,” said Bruce Zimmerman, the DPW director. He said 25 percent of the waste stream on the Island goes to compost, 25 percent to recycling, and 50 percent to the landfill.

The process begins with the residents, who are asked to sort their garbage into the appropriate bags and receptacles: blue bags for garbage that will go to the landfill, beige bags for organic waste that can be composted, and blue recycling tubs for items that can be recycled.

The sorted waste is hauled by dray to the city’s Solid Waste Handling Facility in the center of the Island, and distributed from there.

The landfill items in the blue bag are compacted and shipped to the mainland.

Materials in the compost bags get a final screening from employees at the facility, then are shredded, watered down, and mixed with horse manure, hay, and straw. The mixture is piled into composting bays where it decomposes. After 45 to 60 days, the finished compost is tested and then sold as topsoil.

Since 1996, more than 6,000 cubic yards of finished compost have been sold, said Paul Wandrie, who manages the facility. In 2003 alone, the city sold 659 cubic yards of compost.

“There are many people looking for this compost,” Mr. Wandrie said. “Its become a very big business, really.”

Compost , he added, will enrich the soil, improve soil drainage, and loosen the sand, clay, and rocky composition of Island soil.

To encourage sorting for compost, the city charges only $1.50 for a beige bag, half as much as a blue landfill bag, but concern about the environment also plays a factor in the separation process.

“I think people want to recycle without economic incentive,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

Businesses and residents who don’t separate properly are sent letters explaining the procedure, said Mr. Zimmerman, and employers train their summer workers in the sorting process.

There are still kinks to be worked out of the system. Mr. Wandrie said a lot of places still throw everything into the landfill bags, but, “as the summer goes on, we’ll often see a great improvement,” as those new to the Island learn the way the waste management system works. He notes that he would also like to get people to do a better job of sorting out their recyclable materials.

He is seeking recycling markets for additional materials, too.

Waste than can be composted or sold reduces the overall cost.

“We’ve saved a lot of money by virtue of what we do out here,” Mr. Wandrie said. The system has also created jobs both on and off the island.

“It’s a very, very good system,” he said.

Mr. Zimmerman said he would like to see people mark their bags with their names, to help the DPW identify those who don’t fully understand the three-bin system.

Bags can be purchased at the DPW office on the second floor of Community Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Blue landfill bags can be purchased for $3 each, clear/beige compost bags can be purchased for $1.50 each, and the blue recycling tubs are free for residents.

Finished compost can be purchased for $10 a cubic yard. During the off-season, finished compost can be delivered by city truck. During the summer season and year-around, it is also delivered by Mackinac Island Service Company.

The following items are considered compost and non-compost materials by DPW:

Compost Materials:

- Cereal boxes (no liners)

- Computer paper

- Meat (butcher) paper

- Food scraps

- Coffee grounds and filters

- Tea bags

- Fruit and vegetable peelings

- Egg shells

- Cardboard egg cartons

- Cake mix boxes (no liners)

- Plain paper bags

- Scrap office paper (manila envelopes)

- Postage envelopes (no plastic windows)

- Other miscellaneous paper products

- Waxed paper

- Tissue and napkins

- Paper plates

- Paper (waxed) milk cartons

- Newsprint and telephone books

- Textbooks and paperback books

- Pet food bags (not lined)

- Horse feed bags (not lined)

- Paper/cardboard vacuum bags

- Wooden toothpicks and stir sticks

- Coloring books

* The above items considered compost should be placed in the clear or beige bags.

Landfill Materials:

- Aerosol cans (paint, hairspray, etc.)

- Air, oil, and furnace filters

- Building materials

- Broken dishes

- Window and mirror glass

- Fireplace and wood stove ashes

- Clothing, rags and shoes

- Small appliances (TVs, radios, toasters, etc.)

- Candy and gum wrappers

- Potato chip bags

- Bottle tops, neck rings

- Toothpaste containers

- Light bulbs

- Styrofoam peanuts and packaging materials

- Prescription bottles

- Foil-lined juice boxes

- Disposable diapers, feminine hygiene items

- Shiny newspaper inserts

- Plastic utensils and plastic drink cups

- Broken glassware (box first to protect people)

- Cigarette packages, cigarette filters

- Cat litter

- Plastic stir sticks and plastic straws

- Scrubbing pads

- Plastic motor oil containers

- Metal utensils and plastic utensils

* The above items considered landfill should be placed in the blue bags.

The following items are considered recyclable materials by DPW:

- Magazines and catalogs - All shiny papered magazines and catalogs are accepted; bundle them for easy handling. However, phone books, newspaper inserts and junk mail are NOT.

- Styrofoam - Food service materials such as meat trays, drink cups, plates and egg cartons are accepted; rinse thoroughly. NO insulation, peanuts or packaging material.

- Corrugated cardboard - Bundle cardboard and do NOT stick non-cardboard items in between. Asian cardboard is accepted as long as it is corrugated, NOT single thickness.

- Glass bottles and jars - Clear, green, and brown bottles and jars ONLY. Rinse them out and remove cap and neck rings. Do NOT break them.

- Tin cans - Wash or rinse out cans so no food remains. Place lids down in empty can so they will not cut anyone.

- Aluminum - Wash or rinse all cans.

- Plastics - #1 PET and #2 HDPE are the only plastics accepted by DPW. Bottles such as pop, beer, juice, water and other beverages constitute #1 PET plastics. Some personal care and cleaning products are also accepted. Bottles such as milk jugs, orange juice jugs, laundry detergent, bleach and other narrow necked bottles are accepted and constitute #2 HDPE plastics. Butter tubs and other wide mouthed containers, even if they have a “2” on the bottom are NOT accepted.

- Newspapers - Newsprint is accepted, but no other paper. Bag or bundle so paper will not blow away.

The following is the residential pickup schedule for the Mackinac Island Service Company:

Monday - Landfill and compost bags from Stonecliffe Condos, Woods, Woodbluff, Stoncliffe Manor 1,2,3 and 4.

Tuesday - Landfill and compost bags from East Bluff, Mission Area and Downtown.

Wednesday - Curbside recycling from:

1) East Bluff, Mission Area, Downtown, and Harrisonville

2) West Bluff, Annex, Stonecliffe Condos, Woodbluff, Stonecliffe Manors 1,2,3 and 4, Stonebrook, and British Landing Area.

Thursday - Landfill and compost bags from Annex, West Bluff, and Harrisonville.

Friday - Landfill and compost bags from Stonecliffe Condos, Woods, British Landing Area and Leslie Court (2nd pickup for week).

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