Baler malfunction at Michigan MRF sends material to WTE facility
- The Kent County Recycling and Education Center in Grand Rapids, MI hasn't been accepting material since the afternoon of Feb. 20 due to a baler malfunction, as reported by MLive.
- More than 1,000 tons of recyclable material is currently waiting to be processed on the facility's tipping floor. In the meantime, all other material is going to the county's nearby waste-to-energy combustion facility and the tipping fee for haulers with recyclables will be waived.
- Last year, the facility experienced a service interruption in July due to a propane tank explosion and another in December due to a small fire caused by an electrical short.
The $11.5 million material recovery facility opened in 2010 and is capable of processing up to 18 tons of material per hour. While the county's Department of Public Works recognized that diversion to the WTE facility isn't ideal, it noted that energy recovery is a "much better alternative" to a landfill. This facility is operated by Covanta and accepts waste from multiple cities in the Grand Rapids region.
As seen elsewhere in Michigan recently, baler issues can quickly shut down any MRF. Responsibility for the cost of a new baler at Ann Arbor's MRF was part of a larger contract dispute with operator ReCommunity last year. The city ultimately agreed to reimburse the company and is now considering bids from new operators.
While contamination hasn't been cited as the cause of this incident, it has caused issues at Kent County's facility before and is an ongoing challenge for many municipalities. The inclusion of unsafe items in recycling carts by well-intentioned, though misguided, residents can end up shutting down facilities and leading to larger amounts of wasted material.
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