East Lansing works to make downtown recycling easier

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New trash bins have been added to downtown East Lansing in an effort to encourage recycling. In the downtown, there are two garbage cans side-by-side. One is a black refuse container and the other is a bright green recycling container.

East Lansing worker working on the newly installed bins

Environmental Services Administrator Catherine DeShambo works to promote the importance of recycling by introducing programs such as downtown recycling.

“If you’re in our downtown and you’re drinking a water bottle or you have a newspaper or anything, you can recycle them instead of putting them in the refuse. We started installing these about a year ago. We just installed a second group about a month ago. We had a grant to get the money to purchase those,” said DeShambo.

These installations came after the City of East Lansing did a study to determine how much of what was thrown away was actually recyclable.

“We did a study where we took the refuse out of the downtown and we sorted it at MSU in the recycling center. We actually sorted bags of garbage to see how much of the material that was in the garbage was actually recyclable material. We found that about 75 percent of what was being thrown away downtown was actually recyclable material. It really made sense to have recycling containers down there so that people could do the right thing and put what’s recyclable in the recycling container.”

Recycling data found

Lauren Wallenfels

ing the city to have that ability to recycle wherever they go. If you’re in the downtown, we want you to be able to do that. It really made sense to have recycling containers down there so that people could do the right thing and put what was recyclable in the recycling containers,” said DeShambo.

Once the materials are picked up they must be sorted.

“The material gets hauled from Lansing to the ReCommunity Material Recovery Facility in Detroit. They sort the material at that facility,” said recycling operator Luke Stemler.

The materials are sorted into categories once they are picked up.

“The materials are sorted into plastic, corrugated cardboard, metal, glass, and paper,” said recycling operator Rusty Perleberg.

Lead sanitation worker Ken Johnson not only finds recycling to be environmentally friendly but economically friendly as well.

“We are known for having one of the most comprehensive recycling programs in the area, one of the best. Our trash volumes keep going down and our recycling volumes keep increasing. Recycling contributes jobs and materials to the greater economy. Our residents pay for it through their taxes just like trash pick up. Our residents love to recycle,” said Johnson.

The recycling program is not without problem, though.

“Our biggest challenge is contamination, meaning people putting unacceptable items in their recycling carts like plastic bags, food waste, wood waste, and trash. It is very important that residents follow the rules and only place accepted items in the recycling,” said Johnson.

Mad Eagle employee Claudia Lundberg noticed that the recycling bins make a difference in the community.
“I think the area by the fireplace of the Ann Street Plaza looks cleaner because of the recycling cans. A lot of homeless people hang out over there and drink beer so it’s nice that they have a place to recycle. It makes the area cleaner for sure,” said Lundberg.

The recycling cans are beneficial for workers, like Lundberg, who work around the area.
“I don’t notice people leaving bottles outside our store, but it’s convenient for me and the other girls who work here because we have a place only a few steps away to put all of our recyclables,” said Lundberg.

El Azteco employee Johnny Vlahakis notices the difference, as well.

“I would say it makes a difference just because you don’t see a lot of stuff on the ground. I see the city workers, they’re out there a lot. We keep the front of our area clean, as well.”

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