MTU holds second Waste Reduction Drive

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Volunteers from Michigan Technological University men’s club volleyball — alumnus Matthew Radloff of Appleton, Wisconsin; Alex Roelant, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student; and Ian Blair, a master’s of business administration student — sort plastic bags during the second annual Waste Reduction Drive Saturday.

HOUGHTON — At least 31,000 items otherwise bound for a landfill were collected for reuse Saturday as part of the second annual Waste Reduction Drive.

Members of Michigan Technological University’s Sustainability Demonstration House and other volunteers collected items at Tech’s Student Development Complex.

Event organizer Rose Turner, a graduate student and SDH resident, was glad to see residents put in so much effort to divert their waste. The event is also intended to show people how many opportunities there are to reuse those products. A station outside the SDC had pamphlets on how to recycle more esoteric items such as tires and eyeglasses.

“If it can’t go curbside, that doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled somewhere else,” Turner said.

This year’s drive had an expanded lineup of acceptable materials: plastic film, plastic bags, egg cartons, dental products, foil-lined wrappers and plastic bottle caps.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Alayna Cronan, a second-year chemical engineering student at Michigan Technological University, and Ginny Hemmer, a member of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative, help Roger Helman of Houghton unload plastic film from his truck during the Waste Reduction Drive.

By an hour and a half after the drive ended, volunteers had logged more than 31,000 items, with more still to be counted, according to the Sustainability Demonstration House’s Instagram page.

Everything will be reused. Dental products and razors will be sent to Terracycle, which converts them into park benches. Egg cartons will go to local chicken farmers. Plastic film is headed to Trex, a company that converts plastic waste into decking boards.

“If we send them 500 pounds of plastic waste, they’re going to ship a free bench to our school,” Turner said.

The foil-lined wrappers will be put toward a campus project by Students for Sustainability, which will use them to make Ecobricks — 2-liter bottles densely packed with waste.

“They need 108 of them, so we’re using the foil-lined wrappers to make these,” Turner said.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Carol Ekstrom of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative and Kendra Lachcik, a second-year environmental engineering student at Michigan Technological University, sort bottlecaps during the Waste Reduction Drive Saturday.

The SDH doesn’t have to pay for recycling the materials, with the exception of the bottlecaps, which are shipped to New York. to help pay for the shipping costs — about a cent per bottle.

People were asked to donate 50 cents or $1 to cover the cost. Many gave more.

“People are giving us $20 bills, because they’re so grateful we’re taking their waste,” Turner said.

Roger Helman of Houghton stopped by with a 5-foot truck bed full of plastic film. He’d been saving it for a year.

“I hate putting this stuff in a landfill, because it doesn’t disintegrate,” he said. “So it’s easy to put in a garbage can and keep saving it up … it’s nice to put it to a little further use. It’s more sustainable.”

The SDH has decided to make the drive a fully annual event, Turner said. Next year’s drive will collect the same items, and expand further.

This year, collection bins were set up in downtown Houghton and on the MTU campus ahead of the drive; those will stay up year-round, Turner said.

Ultimately, the Waste Reduction Drive’s goal is to make itself obsolete, Turner said.

“That would mean the community has reduced all their waste, and we no longer send waste to the landfill,” Turner said.


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