PODCAST: Michigan community recycles thousands of pounds of items during new event

Volunteers unload recyclables. Photo: Alice Rossignol.

Thousands of curbside recycling programs exist in the U.S., picking up things like glass, paper and cardboard. But other items like electronics, appliances and medications can’t be recycled so easily and contain substances ­– like mercury and lead – that are harmful to the environment.

New events in the Great Lakes aim to deal with this issue and “Recycle Rama” is one of them.

Listen to the story here:

Story transcript:

Last Saturday the parking lot of Michigan’s Ingham County Health Department was
dotted with dozens of people wearing fluorescent yellow shirts with “VOLUNTEER,”
written in bold, black letters.

These volunteers stacked scrap metal,

(soundbite: stacking metal)

And hauled away old appliances on trolleys.

(soundbite: trolley)

All for this event: Recycle Rama.

Smith: Recycle Rama is just a way for people to get a bunch of stuff from around the
house and bring it in to either donate it for reuse or recycling. We’re taking everything
from scrap metal, to books, to electronics, to unwanted medications.

David Smith is an environmental specialist with the City of East Lansing and is also the
event’s volunteer coordinator.

The City of East Lansing and about seven other groups spent six months organizing
Recycle Rama.

The goal was to collect unique items that can’t be recycled on the curbside – items that
often contain hazardous material, like lead and mercury.

Smith: These are things like TVs that may have heavy metals in them. The leaded glass
in TVs and computers certainly can be dangerous to the environment if it gets out there.
We’re taking things like mercury thermometers and thermostats that have mercury
in them, again, another hazardous item that we don’t want even really going into the
landfills. We really don’t want, we’d rather collect that material and recycle and reuse it.

Mercury effects wildlife by causing death, reduced fertility and slower growth rates.

Other recycling events like this occur around the Great Lakes region.

But this is Ingham County’s first event of this size. Smith expected about 1,000 cars to
come through during the 5-hour event. Volunteers counted over 1,100.

Waiting his car, I talked to Lansing resident Gene Zdebski as he arrived to drop off his
second load of recyclables:

Recyclers were offered more efficient LED Christmas lights for their old ones. Photo: Alice Rossignol.

Zdebski: An old microwave and a TV and Christmas lights.

The city of Lansing’s Board of Water & Light – one of the event’s organizers –offered
recyclers like Zdebski more efficient LED Christmas lights in exchange for old ones. The
board also offered rebates in exchange for older appliances.

Gow: The Board of Water & Light wanted to be involved in it because we’re recycling
old appliances and getting them out of being used, they use a lot of energy.

Aileen Gow is an energy program specialist with the board.

Gow: And so we’re rebating people $15 per unit if they turn them in, so we were really
excited to provide an opportunity for people to recycle.

And people like Zdebski are grateful for the chance to get rid of old stuff in the right way,
instead of chucking it into a trashcan or leaving it by a roadside.

Zdebski: I think it’s a very, very important,. I’m tired of landfills being filled up with
unnecessary junk.

And Zdebski isn’t alone. Gow says that the Mid-Michigan community seemed more than
happy to lessen their burden on landfills, and the environment.

Gow: Happy Recycle Rama! It’s been great. People have been really upbeat, very
happy and according to our exit person hundreds of people have been pleased with it
and wanted to donate it and wanting this to happen again more often. So we’ve had a
fabulous response.

At the end up the day it’s estimated that volunteers filled four semi-semi trucks with
electronics – about 90,000 pounds. Coordinators are tallying exact numbers for all
recyclables and these numbers be available in the next few days.

Zdebski: Great idea. Super.

For Great Lakes Echo, I’m Alice Rossignol

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  • coolman145

    Wait, so they’re taking mercury out of landfills, and then reusing it, so that it goes back out. ???

    Also, when I saw “Rama” I thought this was going to be about the Ramachandra the seventh avatar of Vishnu. Maybe they should have called it “Recyclorama” or something.

    -the coolman

    “there is no spoon”

  • Maya

    Great article! Nice to hear good news!