Recycling program faces growing trash problems

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Pictured is one of Antrim County's eight recycling locations, where illegal dumped trash, such as the drywall materials shown, is a growing, and costly problem.

BELLAIRE – Televisions. Computers. Mattresses. Car batteries. Unusable building materials. And more recently, a water heater.

Those items, and many more, are just a few of the problems facing the Antrim Conservation District, which under a $20,000 annual contract with Antrim County cleans and maintains areas surrounding the eight American Waste recycling bins located throughout the county.

And the problem of large trash items dropped off at the recycling bins is growing, said a frustrated Wendy Warren, ACD district manager, last week.

"Antrim County's recycling program is for paper, flattened cardboard, clean small plastic and glass items, such as rinsed out milk bottles and jars, and rinsed out, clean tin cans," said Warren.

"It is NOT for heavier trash items, and dumping items like that is punishable with up to a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, according to Michigan's statewide littering law."

The problem of illegal dumping at the recycling bins comes at several different times of the year, Warren said. "It's a constant problem, year-round, but it's worst after the snow melts in early spring, during the summer, and in the fall when people are closing up their homes for the winter."

The problem is also widespread, with items dumped off – usually in the dead of night – at seven of the county's recycling areas, Warren noted.

"The only location we don't have any problems with is in Central Lake, where the county's recycling bins are located at the Central Lake Waste Receiving Station, which is only open two days a week, and under the direct observation of township employees."

In Ellsworth, where recycling bins (unlike the other seven locations) are located adjacent to the village's softball fields – away from local government offices or departments on property owned by the Antrim County Road Commission – often has the most problems, Warren noted.

"But we also have problems in Elk Rapids, Bellaire, and other areas.

"It's really hard to understand why this is happening," she said. "Particularly when we have large, prominent signs at every one of the recycling areas, warning of the consequences for anyone who gets caught."

Disposing of the unwanted dumped items then becomes the ACN’s responsibility, she said, which is costly. "Someone has to pay to get rid of these items, and it's sad that it should become the conservation district's problem."

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