Glass recycling options, grant approval at Houghton City Council

Garrett Neese/DMG Ginny Hemmer of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative speaks to the Houghton City Council about the lack of glass recycling in the area during public comment Wednesday.

HOUGHTON — Residents and city officials discussed the possibility of glass recycling or other reuse in Houghton at Wednesday’s Houghton City Council meeting.

Ginny Hemmer of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative and Mary Kaminski spoke during public comment about adding a crusher locally.

Marquette 906, where Waste Management transports material for recycling, only recycles glass if it’s from the Marquette area or if someone from outside the area brings it directly, Hemmer said.

Hemmer said she had talked with Marquette 906 director Brad Austin, who had encouraged them to keep advertising glass recycling in the hopes they would be able to accept it in the future, which would be easier than re-educating the public to put it in then.

For now, it’s not being accepted locally. In advance of Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Craig Waddell spoke with Mark Harrick, the Waste Management representative for the Upper Peninsula. Harrick told him including the glass in single-stream recycling contaminates the paper and cardboard, making it less valuable. The glass also poses a hazard for workers, even with Kevlar gloves. In addition to injuring workers, they can also ruin equipment including seals, hydraulic pumps and the garbage trucks, Waddell said.

“Mark Harrick said, in so many words, ‘Get it out of our trucks,'” he said.

She and Kaminski mentioned possible uses for the glass once it is crushed, such as landscaping, drainage, roads, construction or replenishing beaches.

“Glass adds a lot of weight to our recycling, and it fills up our recycling bins faster then if it was pulled out, so it could really benefit our community to be able to crush it and find another resource to manage that crushed glass,” Hemmer said.

Houghton City Manager Eric Waara said there are other communities that collect glass separately in large semi-trailers to bring to the facility directly.

Waara said the lack of glass recycling did not violate the recent contract with Waste Management for curbside recycling and garbage pickup. That contract stipulates that collected recyclable materials will be brought to Recycle 906 in Marquette. In their process, glass is removed from other recyclable materials and taken to the landfill.

“Unfortunately, glass is a commodity and there’s not a big enough market for that commodity to warrant crushing it and bringing it to where it can be reused,” Waara said.

Waara said Waste Management had told him the nearest facility that can recycle glass, rather than just crush it for other uses, is in Illinois.

“We’re eight to 10 hours away from a place that collects it and actually recycles something which goes back to the consumer,” he said.

Glass recycling had been on the Wednesday agenda as a discussion item, but was withdrawn and discussed informally at the end of the meeting. The council planned to discuss it as an agenda item on Dec. 20.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a revised version of its Cross Connection Control program, which regulates backflow prevention. The council amended its standards to comply with updated state requirements. The new version adds specific credentials required for the tester.

Held a public hearing on the closeout of a water-related infrastructure grant.

• Approved a $4,236 Keweenaw Community Foundation grant to purchase a beach wheelchair to allow people with disabilities to better access the beach at Kestner Waterfront Park.

• Approved an amended version of the city recreation plan. The council had previously tabled the plan and sent it back to the planning commission for revision to incorporate requests from area pickleball players. The version approved by the council also incorporates changes made by the planning commission Tuesday night that amended a call for dedicated pickleball courts within the city to add “or in cooperation with Michigan Tech.”

• Heard a report from Police Chief John Donnelly that the city has a potential applicant for the police academy. He also praised the department’s response to the murder on Shelden Avenue last week.

“When things are at their worst, our department is at its best. All the guys really pitched in hard to work on that,” he said, adding that they had also received a lot of assistance from other agencies locally. “Everybody reaches out and helps. We all work together very well in this community.”

• Heard from City Manager Eric Waara Michigan Technological University would be wintering the Seventh Avenue parking lot, which is partway through construction. Work would resume in the spring.

• Heard from Waara the city would be looking for other funds to do repair work on MacInnes Drive after the city did not receive Category F funding through the Michigan Department of Transportation.

• Approved an engineering agreement for the MDOT Category B grant for U.P. Engineers & Architects for next summer’s Lakeshore Drive project.

• Approved the sale of city property to Raasio Homes for $25,800. The parcel is adjacent to Raasio Homes’ property north of Sharon Avenue.

• Approved establishing a five-member charter and study commission. At least every 10 years, the city must convene a commission to review the charter and potentially recommend changes. Members must be city residents. They cannot be city employees or hold any city office, whether elected or appointed.

• Approved a resolution proclaiming Dec. 3 as TubaChristmas Day in Houghton. There will be a free concert at 7 p.m. that day in the Rozsa Center lobby. The annual global event, which honors tuba legend Wiliam Bell, features tuba performances of holiday songs.


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