NOTICE: Wealthy St. Road Closure 9/21/22-10/21/22. Click here for more details.
      

The Vision

Reimagine Trash… as a resource, as a feedstock, as an opportunity.

Help reduce landfilled waste 20% by 2020 and 90% by 2030.

View Infographics »

Imagine wood pallets becoming wood chips.

Wood

Imagine you could take wood pallets and make wood chips.

Imagine used boxes being recycled into a nice new boxes.

Cardboard

Imagine used boxes being recycled into nice new boxes.

Imagine food scraps nourshing your garden.

Food Scraps

Imagine you could use food scraps to nourish your garden.

Imagine spent brewing hops powering homes.

By-Products

Imagine spent brewing hops powering homes.

IMAGINE THE POTENTIAL

West Michigan disposes of material totaling $56 million in potential economic value in landfills and through waste-to-energy. These materials include corrugated cardboard, food scraps & other organic material, and construction & demolition waste. This material has potential employment value of 370 jobs.

West Michigan Solid Waste Composition

Mean % By Weight

Solid Waste Composition

Total Value of West Michigan MSW

Material Disposed

Solid Waste Composition

Source: West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
2016 Michigan MSW Valuation Study. wmsbf.org/msw.

READ THE FULL REPORT

Economic Impact Potential and Characterization
of Municipal Solid Waste in West Michigan

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and Grand Valley State University worked with Michigan recyclers and waste companies to analyze the composition of municipal solid waste currently landfilled and incinerated in West Michigan and Michigan, and the economic value of this material.

…NEARLY 75% OF OUR TRASH STILL GOES FOR LANDFILL DISPOSAL

Strategy to ReImagine Trash

Kent County’s Landfill Reduction Plan

In the late 1960’s, the Kent County Department of Public Works (DPW) began providing waste disposal solutions for Kent County’s municipalities, businesses and residents. This brought to a close the problematic disposal era of the1940s–1960’s where lack of oversight and environmental regulation resulted in 29 private and municipally-owned open dumps scattered across Kent County’s landscape. It also was the start of the legacy of two Superfund landfill sites resulting in long-term environmental, social and financial consequences.

Today, the Department provides waste management services with a fleet of processing facilities including the Recycling & Education Center, Waste-to-Energy Facility, North Kent Transfer Station and South Kent Landfill providing an integrated solid waste management system.

Kent County Recycling & Education Center

Waste to Energy Facility

North Kent Recycling & Waste Center (transfer station)

South Kent Recycling & Waste Center (landfill)

History demonstrates the progressive management of discarded material in the region. From piggeries more than a century ago to landfills and finally modern facilities that extract energy from waste and prepare material to be brokered as valuable commodities, this demonstrated leadership in managing discards has moved our communities in the right direction and affirmed the signifcance of thoughtful solid waste management policy.

Piggery at City Wastewater Treatment Plant

Source: City archives, early- mid-1900s

Grand Rapids Island 3 Incinerator

Source: City archives, 1897

Air Pollution Control System at Kent County Waste to Energy Facility

Baler at Kent County Recycling & Education Center

The job, however, is far from done. Even with all of this work behind us, nearly 75 percent of our trash still goes for landfill disposal.

In 2015, Kent County disposed of 1.8 million cubic yards of trash, a staggering volume that would fill the University of Michigan’s Big House twice over. This sobering one-year statistic, when combined with the findings of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s Economic Impact Potential and Characterization study released in 2016 that affirmed 75 percent of what we call ‘trash’ can readily be diverted, is a sure call to action.

University of Michigan’s ‘Big House’ football stadium could be filled with Kent County trash 2 times each year.

Source: www.thesportsbank.net & Marcin Szczepanski, University of Michigan

As we look ahead to envision what Kent County and what the West Michigan region will look like in the year 2030, the DPW finds itself asking questions about demographics, population growth, economic development, jobs, logistics, best practices, environmental protection, continuous improvmement, reuse, recycling, trash, landfill capacity and land use.

It’s time for a paradigm shift. We can no longer perpetuate landfilling discards as the solution in Kent County. Placing valuable material in a landfill and using hundreds of acres of land for this ‘one and done’ purpose is not acceptable. Rather, we need to implement a sustainable materials management strategy where our discards, or “by products”, are not seen as ‘waste’. We need to collectively recover the nutrient value of organics and the commodity value of metal, plastics, glass and fiber; take advantage of opportunities to reuse materials that have intrinsic value; and utilize the energy and fuel value of remaining discards so that landfilling becomes very secondary in this process. Those of us in the waste industry must become more efficient and productive in the management of the materials on our side of the equation.

For the past two years, the Department of Public Works has taken a hard look at ourselves and sought the input of our customers, stakeholders and industry thought leaders. The Kent County Waste Reduction Conceptual Plan is a culmination of this effort.

The pages that follow are a road map for a public-private collaboration to solve solid waste issues and establish strategic partnerships where industry and municipal stakeholders will together attract investment in sustainable materials management collection and processing infrastructure to make us a truly sustainable community.

Waste Generated

Kent County residents and businesses landfilled 1.8 million cubic yards (602,083 tons) of waste in 2015, up 6.6% over 2014 and 19% over 2013. According to data released in June 2015 by the Environmental Protection Agency, solid waste generation across the United States averages 4.4 pounds per person per day.

[KNOWING THAT] 75 PERCENT OF WHAT WE CALL ‘TRASH’ CAN READILY BE DIVERTED IS A SURE CALL TO ACTION…

WE CAN NO LONGER PERPETUATE LANDFILLING DISCARDS AS THE SOLUTION IN KENT COUNTY.

Nationwide, the recycling rate for municipal solid waste (MSW) is over 34% but Michigan languishes somewhere around the 15% mark.

In 2014, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF) received funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to assess the contents of what Michiganders throw away and the value of this material if it had instead been directed into the recycling marketplace.

Three Kent County DPW facilities participated in the WMSBF research: South Kent Landfill, North Kent Transfer Station and Waste-to-Energy Facility. Among these facilities, the study found that Kent County residents and businesses are literally throwing away $28 million in material value that could have generated 198 jobs throughout the recycling industry supply chain (transportation, distribution, processing, storage, etc.) had it been diverted to recycling. Further, if Kent County was to add infrastructure to adequately manage organic waste it could expect to divert nearly 75% of what currently goes to landfill or waste-to-energy from Kent County.

KENT COUNTY RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES LANDFILLED 1.8 MILLION CUBIC YARDS OF WASTE IN 2015…

WE ARE LITERALLY THROWING AWAY $28 MILLION IN MATERIAL VALUE THAT WOULD HAVE GENERATED 198 JOBS THROUGHOUT THE RECYCLING INDUSTRY SUPPLY CHAIN.

WMSBF research fellows sorting trash at South Kent Landfill (2015)

Source: WMSBF

DPW Director Dar Baas shows MLive reporter Matt VandeBunte opportunities for waste reduction (2016)

DPW INTENDS TO BRING FOCUS, PUBLIC-PRIVATE INVESTMENT AND THE NECESSARY INFRASTRUCTURE TO WEST MICHIGAN TO ACHIEVE THESE DIVERSION GOALS.

The 20x’20/90x’30 Vision

Shortly after the release of the WMSBF Waste Characterization and Valuation Study, Kent County adopted a strategy to rally Kent County residents and businesses to reduce the 602,083 tons of waste going to area landfills in 2015 by 20% by 2020 (to 481,670 tons) and by 90% by 2030 (to 60,210 tons). This initiative, the “20x’20/90x’30 Vision”, was launched in May 2016. With this vision, DPW intends to bring focus, private-public investment and the necessary infrastructure to West Michigan to achieve these diversion goals.

Adopted Waste Hierarchy

Solid waste professionals in Michigan historically focused on policy that ensured adequate landfill capacity needs were met. Past solid waste planning focused on the procedures necessary to site landfill capacity and focused very little, if any, on addressing alternative methods of waste handling.

In 2015, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality convened the Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel to guide new solid waste management policy reflecting a sustainable materials management (SMM) approach.

Adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others, Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) focuses on the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable way across their entire life cycle. SMM conserves resources, reduces waste, slows climate change and minimizes the environmental impacts of the materials we use.

Strategy to ReImagine Trash – Kent County, Michigan’s Landfill Reduction Plan

Sustainable Business Park

The Kent County Department of Public Works has set a bold goal to divert 90% of Kent County-generated trash that goes to landfills by 2030. Building a Sustainable Business Park is an essential part of reaching that goal.