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Recycling Questions

How can I recycle in Kent County?

Recycling is available through a variety of options:

  • Curbside recycling pick-up by haulers or your municipality
    • To sign up for curbside recycling, contact the waste hauler you have chosen for your curbside trash and ask to sign up for curbside recycling.
    • Most haulers offer this service and most of Kent County residents are able to receive this service.
    • Please verify with your waste hauler where your recycling goes to be sorted and processed (Kent County or another recycling center in the area), to determine what recyclables you can put in your curbside bin.
  • Kent County Drop-off Recycling Stations
    • Recycling drop-off stations are available to residents who do not have access to curbside recycling where they live. No businesses, schools, or farms.
    • Before making the trip to a drop-off station, check out our list of what’s acceptable for recycling. Leaving anything outside the recycling containers or putting anything inside that isn’t accepted is considered illegal dumping.
What is the cost to recycle at the recycling drop-off stations?

Currently, the Kent County Recycling Drop-Off Stations in Grand Rapids and Rockford are free for residents to use.

Recycling drop-off stations are available to people who do not have access to recycling where they live. Before heading out to one, check out our list of what’s acceptable for recycling. Leaving anything outside the containers or putting anything inside that isn’t accepted is considered illegal dumping. 

When does my recycling get picked up?

Kent County operates the processing facilities for waste and recycling but does not provide collection or pick-up services for recycling or trash from residences or businesses. To find out the schedule for your trash or recycling pickup contact the hauler that you have hired for your recycling services.

What materials can go in my recycling bin?
To find out what is and what is not recyclable for your curbside recycling bin, you'll want to contact your waste hauler to ask where your recyclables go to be sorted and processed. All Recycling Centers, or Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), have different types of machines and technology they use to sort recyclables and different downstream processors (papermills, polymer factories, steelmills, etc.) they sell to so it's important to determine where your recycling goes so that you can follow that Recycling Center's guidelines for recycling.

Additionally, Kent County Recycling Center provides sorting and processing for recyclables from 7 of the surrounding counties but just because you live in Kent County doesn't mean that your recyclables come to Kent County Recycling & Education Center to be sorted...the decision is up to your waste hauler and how they establish collection routes so be sure to ask!

If your curbside recyclables are delivered to Kent County Recycling Center or you utilize the Kent County Recycling Drop-Off Stations, you'll want to follow our Recycling Guide for the correct rules on how and what to recycle:

Can I recycle Styrofoam?

Yes, but not in your curbside recycling bin or our drop-off stations!

Styrofoam cups, plates, and packaging are not recyclable at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center so any foam plastics will need to go to special foam-only recycling collection. Search our online waste guide to find locations to drop off foam for recycling.

Where can I recycle shredded paper now that you know longer accept it in the recycling bin?

Shredded paper cannot be placed in your curbside recycling bin or in the recycling containers at our recycling drop-off stations as it will fall between the gaps of our sorting machines at the Recycling Center and contaminate our recycled glass conveyor belt.

However, there are still ways to divert shredded paper from the landfill: check out our Shredded Paper resource page under our Waste & Recycling Directory for what can be done with shredded paper.

How do I recycle old batteries?

Batteries should never go in your recycling bin or recycling drop-off stations as they could cause a fire at the Recycling Center.

Alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury (an EPA mandated manufacturer change since 1996), so your non-rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, N, & 9-Volt batteries can actually be safely placed in the trash.

All other types of batteries (rechargeable batteries, button batteries, car batteries, lithium-ion or nickel cadmium batteries like drill bit batteries, etc.) should go to one of our SafeChem/Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Collection Sites for free for proper disposal.

Can I recycle plastic bags?

Yes, but not in your curbside recycling bin or our drop-off stations!

Plastic bags, newspaper bags, produce bags, air pillows, bubble wrap, packaging and other flexible or film plastic is not recyclable at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center. Search our online Waste & Recycing Directory to find special collection locations to drop-off film, bags, or soft plastics for recycling.

Do you recycle clothes?

No, clothing and other textiles are not recyclable at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center.

Clothing and textiles are difficult to recycle due to the fact that many of these items are made out of so many unique blends of materials (EX: 70% polyester, 10% nylon, 20% cotton). In fact with the way that many articles of clothing are made today, they would require chemical recycling in order to be recycled in the actual sense instead of donated and used again. Currently, there are no true recyclers of textiles within Michigan.

What many businesses mean when they say they recycle clothing, textiles, or shoes is that they accept gently worn items that will be sold in a second-hand store, used for charity organizations, or sold to developing countries for citizens to reuse---textiles typically aren’t recycled or broken down to their raw form to be made into a new article of clothing. We have a "Clothing & Textiles" resource under our Waste Directory of businesses and organizations within the West Michigan area that do accept clothing and textiles for reuse.

Can I recycle propane tanks?

Yes, but not in your curbside recycling bin or our drop-off stations!  Propane tanks can cause explosions at the Recycling Center if placed in your curbside recycling bin or recycling drop-off stations.

Keep our workers safe by properly disposing of propane and other compressed gas tanks; do NOT place them in your trash or recycling bins

How do I recycle electronics?

We offer free electronics recycling but not through your curbside bin!

Kent County Department of Public Works' has 3 Electronics Recycling Drop-Offs; the Recycling & Education Center, the North Kent Waste and Recycling Center, and the South Kent Waste and Recycling Center.

**CRT devices (such as projection or tube TVs and computer monitors) and appliances containing Freon/refrigerant (dehumidifiers, refrigerators, AC units) cannot be recycled at the Recycling & Education Center but can be accepted at the North or South Kent Waste and Recycling Centers for a fee. Fees for and more information on how to recycle electronics can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document.

Check out our Waste & Recycling Directory to find additional locations listed for recycling or disposing of your electronics!

Do you take appliances for recycling?

Yes, but not in your curbside bin or at our drop-off stations!

We accept appliances (with and without Freon/refrigerant) at both the North Kent Waste & Recycling Center and South Kent Waste & Recycling Center for recycling for a fee (which can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document).

All appliances must be emptied -- all contents removed prior to acceptance.

Do you take tires for recycling?

Yes, but not in your recycling bin or our drop-off stations!

We accept tires at both the North Kent Waste & Recycling Center and South Kent Waste & Recycling Center for recycling for a fee (varies on size and type of tire). Fees for and more information on how to recycle tires can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document.

All tires must be empty and clean prior to acceptance.

How do I recycle old paints or stains?

Do NOT place your paint in your recycling bin or recycling drop-off container. All paints, stains, and lacquers, EXCEPT LATEX PAINT, can go to one of our SafeChem /Household Hazardous Waste collection locations for free as a Kent County resident.

If you do have Latex Paint that you no longer need or is old, check out our latex paint guide for information on how to donate or dispose of Latex Paint.

Where can I recycle a mattress?

Check out our waste guide to see if there are any locations listed for recycling or disposing of this item!

Where does my recycling go after it's sorted? Does it go to the landfill or Waste to Energy Facility?

Kent County Department of Public Works is proud to say that all of the recyclables that we successfully sort and bale at the Kent County recycling & Education Center stays in the Great Lakes Region for downstream processing at a papermill, smelter, or polymer factory.

This keeps the economic benefits of recycling close to home and the environmental impacts of transporting those baled recyclables downstream for processing low while offering reliable outlets/markets for many recyclables that our residents use everyday.

 

 

Can I take recyclables or other materials from the Recycling Center, Recycling Drop-Offs, or Landfill?

Our policy does not permit the removal of any waste items (recyclables, electronics, scrap metal, etc.) once they reach one of our waste management facilities due to safety and liability concerns.

Do you offer tours of the Recycling Center (and other waste facilities)?

Composting FAQs

How do I start composting (at my home, business, school, etc.)?

Resources on how you can start composting at your home, business, office, school, place of worship and more can be found on our Composting page.

What can and can't I put into my compost?

If you have curbside or industrial compost services that you've subscribed to, be sure to check with your curbside compost provider as they will have the correct list of what is and what is not acceptable to place in your compost bin depending on the type of breakdown process they use (aerobic, anaerobic, windrow, pile, digestion, etc.).

What's In. What's Out.

Below is a general list of what is should and should not be placed in your compost:

What to Compost - The IN List

Typical brown (dry) materials include:

  • Brown, dry leaves
  • Dried grass
  • Cornstalks (shredded)
  • Straw
  • Sawdust (in moderation)
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Nut shells
  • Fireplace ashes

Typical green materials are:

  • Fresh (green) Grass clippings
  • Fresh manure (horse, chicken, rabbit, cow)
  • Weeds
  • Green leaves
  • Leftover fruits from the garden
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Eggshells
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Tea bags
  • Yard trimmings

You'll notice that the materials are broken into two categories "browns" and "greens" -- “greens” are high in nitrogen and “browns” are high in carbon. Composting requires the proper ratio of "brown" and "green" materials in order for the microorganisms breaking down those materials into compost to be happy, productive, and energetic. As a general rule, you want to have approximately four parts “brown” to one part “green”. This is an approximation, usually too much “green” is the problem as it is difficult to have too much “brown”. You can find more information via The Basics Of Composting (EPA, 2010)

What Not to Compost - The OUT List

Leave Out/Reason Why

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs - Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash - Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants - Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish, bones and scraps - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter) - Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides - Might kill beneficial composting organisms

(EPA, 2010)

Why should I compost....doesn't my stuff just break down in the landfill?

Food waste (scraps and wasted food) accounts for 35% of waste (by weight) in our landfills -- that's a lot!

The Many Benefits of Composting

  • Saves money on your trash bill -- less stuff going into your trash bins means fewer tips and more dollars in your pocket.

  • It also helps extend the life of landfills since 26% of the waste stream is yard waste and food scraps that can be composted (EPA, 2009).

  • When you throw organic material into a landfill, it is not given the proper amount of oxygen to decompose. These materials start breaking down though an oxygen-less process and in turn release methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change (more below).

  • Creates free high quality fertilizer for the garden

Our Trash Doesn't Breakdown.

With the way landfills are created, there are plastic layers and sheeting that covers the different "cells" or sections of the landfill to prevent that trash from polluting the environment -- land, air, and water. When that plastic layer is put in place when a cell or landfill reaches capacity, it closes off oxygen from reaching any organic materials switching the rotting or breakdown process from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen). Not only is this the anaerobic breakdown process much slower than it's counter process (aerobic), it produces a different gas entirely because different microbes are supported by a low or no oxygen living space.

Typically, your compost pile would produce CO2, otherwise known as carbon dioxide, as the organic materials rot and decay since the compost pile is exposed to oxygen (depending on how often your turned your pile). We know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas (meaning it holds heat in our Earth's atmosphere) too however when we compare it to anaerobic breakdown, we can see a big difference! Food waste and other organic materials that are trapped in our landfill aren't exposed to oxygen, meaning that breakdown anaerobically (without oxygen) producing CH4, methane, instead of carbon dioxide. Methane is also a greenhouse gas that holds heat in the Earth's atmosphere HOWEVER when comparing the two gases, methane holds about 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.

And while we do have a methane gas collection system at our landfill, methane gas collection system are only so efficient; BUT it will never capture all the methane that is being generated by the breakdown of organic matter in the landfill (under anaerobic conditions). Furthermore, a basic  methane capture system collects the landfill gas and is then flared (burned) or is converted for energy use by removing all contaminants. The US EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program estimates that 60%-90% of the methane emitted from landfills can be captured dependent upon the system and its effectiveness. But if we recall, methane is 25 times worse than carbon dioxide and you need to collect about 95% of the landfill gas to simply break even in terms of detriment to the Earth.

What can you do? The idea of reducing food waste and wasted food first at the source is always best. Composting or other organics processing will remain a higher and better use with less environmental damage than collecting landfill gas for its energy potential.

Okay my compost stinks....what am I doing wrong?

Pass the smell test!

Keeping a good ratio of “greens” and “browns” helps encourage the decomposition process and keeps the pile from getting stinky.

  • “Greens” are high in nitrogen (such as shredded paper, dead leaves, used paper napkins, etc.)
  • "Browns” are high in carbon (lawn clippings, fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, etc.)

The microorganisms that break down your compost, need a good balance of these to be full and energetic. As a general rule, you want to have approximately four parts “brown” to one part “green”. This is an approximation, usually too much “green” is the problem as it is difficult to have too much “brown”. You can find more examples of "greens" and "browns" can be found in the FAQ above.

If you feel that your bin has the right ratios of greens and brown, heat, air circulation, and moisture may also be affecting the smell....and err, productivity of your compost!

  • Place your compost bin or pile in a place where it is well lit or warm. If you’re placing your bin outside, putting it in a sunny area will help the center of the pile heat up which is what is necessary for the breakdown of the materials inside.
  • Be sure that the microorganisms breaking your compost down are getting plenty of air by turning the pile or stirring the bin a little more often.
  • Also, if it starts to get a little dry add enough water to it to keep it moist.
What is the final product of my compost? What does all my food scraps break down into?

The Dirt - Breaking it Down

Compost is slightly and eventually completely broken down organic matter, referred to by some as “humus”. Yes, it is often found in a pile in your yard, but it doesn’t necessarily have an odor. Compost is created every single day in nature by the breakdown of natural materials such as leaves, grass clippings, animal poop – it’s all part of the nutrient cycle. This process is caused by tiny microorganisms in the soil (tiny bugs like bacteria and fungi) and other insects such as earthworms that munch on the organic material.

The benefits of composting range from saving money on your trash bill to creating useful natural fertilizer for your plants. Since it is already a natural process, fiddling with your heap of compost will help create good conditions for the decomposition process, effectively producing useful “fertilizer” in as little as several weeks. 

Additional Resources

What a heap of… compost!

After successfully cooking the compost into beautiful nutrient rich “humus”, what should you do with it?

Relax and have a cup of tea!

Ever heard of compost tea? I know you’re envisioning handfuls of compost steeping in your tea pot, which really isn’t that far from the truth! Once you’ve created your nutrient-rich compost, take advantage of the yummy nutrients hanging out in the soil water by creating your very own compost tea. This can be used as a natural fertilizer to water your garden with. Don’t worry, all of the nutrients will not be lost in your compost, it’ll still be a great application to your garden all on its own.

Simpler methods involve filling up a bucket about 1/3 with compost then 2/3 water and letting it sit for a few days (4-5). Give it a stir once or twice each day and when it’s good and ready let the compost settle and pour the water off the top or strain it into another bucket through cheesecloth. This solution can be diluted and put into a sprayer or watering can to add to the soil or leaves immediately! The remaining material can go straight into the soil or back into the compost pile.

What if you have worms?

Water that is caught from moistening your vermicomposting bin can be used directly from the bin to water plants. This water has run through the soil and worms so it contains some of the nutrients left inbetween soil particles.

Another method is steeping a handful of compost in a few gallons of water for an extended period of time (at least 12 hours, but preferably two weeks). Make sure you remove your worms first or they’ll drown!

Stick a fork in it, it’s done!

Your completed compost can be added directly into the soil of your garden if you don’t have special red composting worms. In case of worms, make sure you remove them before adding them to your garden. They might not be able to survive if they are scattered amongst your garden since they thrive in organic material, not in the soil. Plus, you don’t want to get your population too low!

What is Vermicomposting/Worm Composting?

Vermicomposting

An alternative to the traditional outdoor bin is composting with worms. They are extremely low maintenance and there are an abundance of places online where you can order them. A less expensive option if you know someone that already composts with worms is to borrow a population from them. Don’t go digging worms out of your yard to put them in a box, there are specific worms (typically called red worms or red wigglers, Eisenia fetida) recommended for the compost process. Building a worm composting bin is simple, it only requires a small, opaque container that has holes in it so the worms can breathe. Usually these are smaller and cost less to construct. Make sure there’s some kind of screen around the holes you drill in the bottom so they don’t go finding their way into your living room.

These articles have some good information on getting started:

Here at the DPW office we have our very own pet worms that help us get rid of food scraps from our break room. Happy compost comes from happy worms, and we certainly give ours the nutrition they need!

How do I get rid of yard waste?
Yard waste is banned from disposal in Michigan landfills and waste to energy facilities. Contact your waste hauler to sign up for curbside yard waste pickup, visit our online waste guide for locations to bring your yard waste or compost your yard waste at home.

Landfill Questions

How much does it cost to dump at the landfill? What forms of payment are accepted?
You can find Disposal Fees under each landfill location page (North Kent Waste & Recycling Center -- South Kent Waste & Recycling Center) as well as Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document. Fees are based on vehicle load and/or specialty items/waste type.

Terms of payment: cash, check, or credit card. Additional 3% convenience fee added when using a credit card. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover only.

The scale house attendants at both locations will be able to make the final call on fees associated with disposal. Kent County Department of Public Works reserves the right to accept or reject any waste at any of our facilities.

Does a SUV/Crossover vehicle fall under the truck-load or car-load of landfill cost?
We charge by weight with a minimum fee of $30.00 for a pickup. SUV's, Minivan's, & Crossover vehicles fall under our policies pickup truck classification. You can find Disposal Fees under each landfill location page (North Kent Waste & Recycling Center -- South Kent Waste & Recycling Center) as well as Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document. Fees are based on vehicle load and/or specialty items/waste type.
What can I bring or dispose of at the landfill?
This is the list of Prohibited Items for all of Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Facilities.

You can find Disposal Fees and accepted categories of waste under each landfill location page (North Kent Waste & Recycling Center -- South Kent Waste & Recycling Center) as well as Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document. Fees are based on vehicle load and/or specialty item/waste type.

Keep in mind that much of our trash are actually resources that can be reused, recycled, rotted (composted), and reimagined as materials for for new items and products. Please refer to our Waste & Recycling Directory for options on diverting waste away from the landfill in order to help us get closer to our goal of reducing landfill waste by 90% by 2030.

Do you take dead animals at the landfill?
Yes, we do. You can find the Disposal Fee for dead animals and accepted categories of waste under each landfill location page (North Kent Waste & Recycling Center -- South Kent Waste & Recycling Center) as well as Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document. Fees are based on vehicle load and/or specialty item/waste type.
Are DPW staff available to help me unload at the landfill?

All of our waste and recycling facilities are self-serve. Department of Public Works staff are not able to assist with unloading any waste brought to any of our waste facilities.

Do you take appliances at the landfill?
Yes, we accept appliances (with and without Freon/refrigerant) at both the North Kent Waste & Recycling Center and South Kent Waste & Recycling Center for recycling for a fee (which can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document).

All appliances must be emptied -- all contents removed prior to acceptance.

Do you take tires at the landfill?
Yes, we accept tires at both the North Kent Waste & Recycling Center and South Kent Waste & Recycling Center for recycling for a fee (varies on size and type of tire). Fees for and more information on how to recycle tires can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document.

All tires must be empty and clean prior to acceptance.

Do you take hot tubs, boats, motor homes (bulky items) at the landfill?
Yes, we accept bulky items, such as hot tubs, boats, motor homes and more both the North Kent Waste & Recycling Center and South Kent Waste & Recycling Center for disposal for a fee. Fees for and more information on how to dispose of bulky items can be found on Kent County Department of Public Works' Disposal Fee Document.

This includes any bulky item that requires special handling including equipment and labor to manage. All appliances in mobile homes or trailers are to be removed prior to disposal.

Can I take recyclables or other materials from the Recycling Center, Recycling Drop-Offs, or Landfill?

Unfortunately, our policy does not permit the removal of any waste items (recyclables, electronics, scrap metal, etc.) once they reach one of our waste management facilities due to safety and liability concerns.

SafeHomes -- Household Hazardous Waste Questions

How do I get rid of leftover chemicals?
Kent County operates the SafeChem household hazardous waste collection program. Products like motor oil, gasoline, pesticides, cleaners, pool chemicals, oil-based paints and other products that are toxic or hazardous should not be put in your trash or discarded down the drain. Drop off these products (in their original container, when possible) at the SafeChem locations. Check with each location to see what hours it will be open.
Do you collect chemicals on the weekend?
During the spring, summer and fall Kent County and host locations offer SafeChem collections on Saturdays. Find out when the Saturday collections are scheduled near you.
How do I get rid of Fluorescent light bulbs?
Check out our waste guide to see if there are any locations listed for recycling or disposing of this item!
How do I get rid of old paints or stains?

All paints, stains, and lacquers, EXCEPT LATEX PAINT, can go to one of our SafeChem Drop-Off locations for free as a Kent County resident.

If you do have Latex Paint that you no longer need or is old, check out our latex paint guide for information on how to donate or dispose of Latex Paint.

What do I do with old batteries?
Check out our waste guide to see if there are any locations listed for recycling or disposing of this item!
How should I dispose of old medications and syringes?
Kent County administers the SafeSharps and SafeMeds (formerly West Michigan Take Back Meds) programs to help residents safely dispose of their home-generated needles and medications instead of putting them in the trash or down the drain where they could injure someone or harm the environment. Check for locations to drop off needles and medications around West Michigan.

Miscellaneous Questions

I need records for sewer/water mains or septic...can you help?

Kent County Department of Public Works implements sustainable materials management strategies to reduce dependency on landfill disposal through a variety of waste facilities — we do not manage sewer/water mains or septic systems.

For ​Sewer or Water Main Records

  • If you live in a City, you’ll need to contact that specific city for public sewer and water main records.  
  • If you live in a township, records for public sewer and water vary:
    • Byron & Gaines Townships
    • Plainfield, Cannon, Courtland, or Alpine Townships
      • Sewer records can be found through the North Kent Sewer Authority  
      • Public Water records can found by contacting your individual Township
      • Note: Not all of these townships have public water – instead you may have well water
    • Ada, Algoma, Caledonia, Cascade, Grand Rapids Twp, Grattan, Lowell, Nelson, Oakfield, Sparta, Spencer, Solon, Tyrone, Vergennes Townships
      • Public Water or Sewer records can be found through your Township 

Well or Septic Records