Ask ELi: How Is East Lansing Handling Recyclable Material Now?

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An East Lansing curbside recycling cart.

An ELi reader recently submitted an “Ask ELi to Investigate” question regarding the City of East Lansing’s recycling program:

“Is East Lansing still actually recycling the recycling they pick up? I saw reports that other communities have taken to burning it because of the threat of contamination and was wondering what is happening locally during lockdown?”

We turned to Environmental Services Administrator Cathy DeShambo for the answer.

“We continue to have an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Lansing, which provides for the processing of our recycling, along with Lansing’s curbside recycling, through Republic,” DeShambo wrote in an email response. “We have continued to collect our curbside recycling as recycling collection is regarded as an essential service, and we have continued to send our recycling, as normal, to our material recovery facility for processing.”

The City has not been notified of any concerns or changes to the processing of recyclable material due to the pandemic, according to DeShambo.

“The increased focus on contamination has been in place now for several years, and we have continued to be diligent about ensuring that residents recycle only those accepted materials,” DeShambo wrote. “We continue to audit [curbside] carts on regular basis and provide residents with reminders, when necessary, about the importance of following our recycling guidelines.”

Carts are rejected for pick-up when they do not comply with the recommended guidelines.

“Last fall we conducted an all-day recycling audit with Iris Waste Systems to gain an even better understanding of the exact makeup of materials of our recycling loads,” DeSambo continued. “Over eight hours of hand-sorting nearly five tons of material gave us some great data, and reinforced that our diligence towards contamination has paid off with low contamination rates, and provided us some areas to increase our educational focus.”

The City has had very low rates of contamination with recycling loads at the processor, DeShambo added.

The City is not currently participating in the curbside “Simple Recycling” program (the orange bags) because of the statewide emergency orders. Drop-off recycling at the Department of Public Works’ building is also closed for now.

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