May 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Recycling project to bring 200-plus jobs to Detroit

Detroit — A new project backed by the Michigan Strategic Fund will divert millions of tons of Metro Detroit waste from area landfills and put more than 200 people to work.

Green Box NA, a Wisconsin-based company that specializes in using 100 percent of reclaimed materials for new purposes, will set up shop near the Interstate 94 and Interstate 75 interchange in the city.

With the help of $125 million in tax-exempt bond financing from the Strategic Fund, the company plans to take in massive amounts of food-service waste from restaurants around the region and recycle them into commercial products.

The $200 million project will have the Detroit facility working in tandem with another Green Box operation in Cheboygan. Materials such as cups, lids, straws, plastic bottles and even napkins will be collected locally and converted into bails and pellets. Those materials will then be shipped to Wisconsin to be transformed into paper products like facial tissues and napkins, as well as biofuels.

“We actually like working with all big cities, but Detroit has some very good incentives,” said Ron Van Den Heuvel, Green Box’s chairman. “We need to be here because of the population. The tax-exempt bonds will really help us create the jobs. That’s what we needed most, and it’s available here.”

Between Detroit and Cheboygan, the project will create an estimated total of 331 full-time jobs.

“These are jobs that average about $49,000 a year to $49,500 with benefits,” Van Den Heuvel said. “About 209 will be available in Detroit. I’m going to say about 15 of those jobs, maybe 16, require a college education or a technical school degree. The rest fall into a labor-type of jobs requiring a high school education.”

To house those workers, Green Box will rehabilitate an old building at 601 Piquette Ave. Van Den Heuvel said construction time is estimated at six months.

Work on the Cheboygan facility will take longer, but both are expected to be up and running 18 months from now.

“It think it’s exciting in terms of the number of jobs it will create and the projected (tons diverted from landfills),” said Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday.

Along with the jobs, the project will also eliminate a projected 22.7 million cubic square feet of space needed for landfills each year.

It’s a project welcomed by Snyder because it comes on the heels of a goal he announced last month of raising Michigan’s recycling rates.

“It’s a great project in terms of being environmentally sound,” Snyder said Tuesday. “... It’s about sustainability and being environmentally conscious.”

Green Box’s approach goes beyond recycling into the arena of repurposing. Recycling operations typically send a percentage of the collected materials back to landfills. Green Box utilizes all of the materials it collects. In addition, company officials said their facilities generate no harmful air or water emissions.

Residents in the Detroit area where the facility will be built have long complained about adverse health effects they contend are linked to the high volume of vehicle traffic as well as emissions from the Detroit incinerator.
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