HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University’s Sustainability Demonstration House (SDH) has announced it will host The Keweenaw’s First Waste Reduction Drive from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, in the Michigan Tech Lot 24 parking lot.
In a Wednesday release, The Sustainability Demonstration House said that since February, local families and community members have been collecting five items that cannot be recycled curbside in the Keweenaw. These include foil-lined granola and energy bar wrappers, plastic bottle caps and rings, plastic bags containing a recycling number, alkaline batteries and styrofoam egg cartons.
The waste reduction drive is a late kick-off to Earth Week. Earth Day was originally planned for April 22, but public safety concerns as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak subdued the annual celebration worldwide. It was no different in Houghton, said Rose Turner, MTU SDH Coordinator, graduate student in the civil and environmental engineering department at Michigan Tech.
“The drive was originally scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2020, but we had to reschedule due to the COVID lockdown and closure of MTU’s campus,” Turner said. “We asked the community to continue collecting these items while we worked on rescheduling the event. We were finally able to reschedule our drive for Saturday, June 27, when many of the COVID restrictions had been lifted. To maximize the health and safety of the participants, the collection of items will be setup as a drive-through. All volunteers will wear masks, gloves, and multiple disinfectants will be available on site.”
The primary objective of the Waste Reduction Drive is to reduce the amount of landfill waste produced by the Keweenaw Community, Turner explained. The second objective is to educate the community on the many recycle/re-use opportunities in addition to curbside recycling.
The SDH provides an opportunity for students to engage with sustainable living directly, on the university’s campus. Residents of the house works alongside the Alternative Energy Enterprise and have many different ongoing projects, which anyone interested can read more about on their website and blog.
Turner said at the SDH, they are always looking for unique ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle our waste.
“We use a waste output tracking system at the house that allows us to track the amount of waste, by weight, that we produce at our house,” said Turner. “We track our landfill waste, compost, and recycling. As of the spring and summer of 2020, compost makes up 48% of our waste output, recycling makes up 37%, and our landfill waste makes up only 15% of our output.”
The low landfill waste production, shared between five students, she said is a direct result of the SDH’s continuous research into different recycling programs, purchasing items with less or no packaging, reusing everything that they can, and investing in reusable products.
“We desired to share these habits with the surrounding community, so we created the Keweenaw’s First Waste Reduction Drive back in February of 2020,” Turner said. “We chose five items that the average family uses regularly and asked our community to start saving them … all five of these items cannot be recycled curbside in the Keweenaw for various reasons. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t be recycled or reused.”
Turner said they found a unique re-use/recycle opportunity for the five items.
“The styrofoam egg cartons will be donated to local chicken farmers for reuse — we are collecting plastic and cardboard cartons as well for this purpose,” she said. “The foil-lined granola/energy bar wrappers will be sent to Terra Cycle where they will be converted into a hard plastic for manufacturing. The plastic bottle caps and rings will be sent to Preserve’s Gimme 5 program, where they will be transformed into toothbrushes and kitchenware. The plastic bags– any plastic bag containing a recycling number, not just grocery bags — will be properly recycled through Walmart. The alkaline batteries will be properly recycled through Houghton’s Remy Battery.”
Turner said she is unsure the drive will become a reoccurring event.
“Since this is the first Keweenaw-wide waste reduction drive, we will need to evaluate how the event goes on Saturday,” she said. “We are hoping for a positive response from the community and a large volume of collection items! It is our hope that the community will now think twice before throwing an item in the trash.”
For more information on the Waste Reduction Drive, and contact information, please see this article’s sidebar.