After being closed for Michigan’s Covid-19 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order in March, the City of East Lansing’s recycling center – located at the Department of Public Works, 1800 E. State Road– is now back open.
Why was the site closed for a time?
“When the executive order went into place, many of our partners that we take our materials to also had to shut down, and we don’t have a way to store those materials in the long term,” Catherine DeShambo, East Lansing’s Environmental Services Administrator, explained. “At the time, we also didn’t know how long this was going to last, so the most prudent and safe measure that we could take was to shut the site down until we had more information.”
The site is back to receiving materials including cardboard, boxboard, mixed plastics, mixed paper, tin, steel and glass.
Since reopening in mid-July, the site has received record highs of polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, with 1,400 pounds of polystyrene collected just last week. DeShambo attributes this change to the high amount of restaurant take-out orders and items ordered online during the pandemic.
During the first week of reopening, the site had extra staff working to help those coming to use the site and to ensure that it was not overwhelmed with materials.
Health concerns about the coronavirus do mean the site is operating differently than it was before.
“With opening the site back up, we had to take into consideration the health and safety of the customers using our site, and of our staff, who have to handle the materials and the containers,” DeShambo said.
Regular visitors will notice the containers in which people deposit their recyclable materials are more spread out, and everyone at the site is required to wear masks.
“We have the containers spread out so that people should be able to adequately social distance, and sometimes the site can be quite busy with people crossing back and forth between containers,” DeShambo said. “We just think that’s something we can do for each other, and we can wear masks and ask that the site is as safe as possible for everybody.”
In addition to the changes at the drop-off recycling site, East Lansing’s yard waste pick-up has also changed because of the pandemic.
It is still the case that if someone’s yard waste or bulk items are in a bag other than a City of East Lansing-branded bag, then they must purchase stickers from the City and put them on what they want picked up.
Before the pandemic, East Lansing residents could purchase the stickers at City Hall, Hannah Community Center or the Department of Public Works. But now the City has developed a new way for people to purchase stickers.
Residents can go to the City’s website to purchase stickers and register to have their bags picked up. The stickers are sent through the mail.
Stickers are also available for sale at City Hall on weekdays and at the farmers’ market on Sundays.
“We were looking at people who were not comfortable going to City Hall or the farmers’ market, people that really needed the convenience of an online purchasing option,” DeShambo said about the new remote-purchase option. “We started the online purchasing piece for that reason.”
“We’re definitely serving a need in the community, and we’re glad that we can do that,” DeShambo said. “We want people to come out and be safe and recycle all those materials they can recycle.”
Postscript (Aug. 17, 2020): We asked Cathy DeShambo what happened with the curbside recycling picked-up during the shut down. She replied: “we have an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Lansing for our curbside recycling; curbside recycling does not come back to DPW after collection rather it is dropped directly at the city of Lansing Transfer site. Our materials, along with Lansing’s curbside materials, are hauled to a processor in the Detroit area for processing under that contract. That processor continued to accept single stream curbside recycling under our contract.”