Flint recyclers step up efforts to combat water bottles

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Flint — To prevent the pileup of empty bottles in landfills from the fallout of the city’s drinking water crisis, officials announced Thursday that residents will immediately have biweekly curbside pickup service.

With thousands of water bottle donations coming in by the hour to assist residents dealing with unusable tap water from corroded lead pipes, recycling companies have stepped up to keep Flint from becoming blighted by plastic.

As of Wednesday, emergency efforts have led to the distribution of 207,055 cases of water, according to the state.

Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist with the state, said he hopes Flint will become a model city for recycling for doing its part to tackle the used containers.

“We want to make this process easy for people to get it done,” he said. “Recycling will be a normal order of business in Flint.”

The biweekly curbside pickup is underway for residents with weekly trash collection. Residents without trash pickup can call Republic Services, (800) 438-0966, for a recycling bin or they can use their own box as long as it’s labeled recycling.

“Everyone needs water,” said Misha Black, 24. “I didn’t even know about the recycling bins until my cousin told me today. I guess I will call the number.”

Residents also can request free recycling bins from Republic Services. For additional bottles that won’t fit in bins, the company will provide clear plastic bags.

While Shane Kelley, planner for the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, wants to remind residents not to forget to recycle old water filters, they are only accepting PUR and Brita brands.

“With the help of volunteers, we are helping to create great solutions,” Kelley said. “We are working to provide safe, new filters to all residents.”

The state has provided residents with 97,342 water filters, which require frequent changing.

Other companies helping with recycling are Young’s Environmental Cleanup, Schupan Recycling and TerraCycle.

To maximize efforts, bins have been placed in central areas of the city, including downtown, grocery stores, most schools and fire stations.

“While we are all working together as a community, it’s still important for us to take pride in our environment and not harm it,” Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Thursday at an event announcing the efforts. “Our goal is to make sure none of these bottles end up as litter.”

Recycling centers have been overwhelmed by the amount of waste as a result of the need to use plastic bottles.

Over the course of several months, the workload of employees at Averill Refuse and Recycling in Flint has doubled, if not tripled, workers say.

“We have easily sorted through 40,000 pounds of water bottles in a week,” said Rochelle Wiswell, general manager at Averill. “There will be lots of overtime for a long time.”

Averill has provided the majority of Flint schools and retirement homes with free recycling containers.

“We collect a 40-yard container each day. You can do the math. That’s a lot of bottles,” Wiswell said.

Flint has five water resource distribution sites where residents can pick up bottled water, one of which is at Fire Station No. 1 at 310 E. Fifth. Flint Chief David Cox Jr. said people come as early as 8 a.m. every day looking to pick up cases of water.

“We easily see 400-500 people a day, giving out two to three cases of water per car,” Cox said. “I see people with their own U-Hauls passing out water, too, so I know this recycling effort is much needed to make sure we keep our city clean.”

A guide to dropping off empties

Water bottles must be returned in clear plastic bags. Bottles in grocery or solid-color bags will not be accepted.

Residents can use their own clear bags, or pick up bags from Fire Stations 1, 5 or 8.

Schupan Recycling dropoff locations in Flint

9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily

Fire station 1, 310 E. Fifth St.

Fire station 5, 3402 Western Road

Fire station 8, 202 E. Atherton

Young’s Environmental Cleanup dropoff locations

Bill Carr Signs, 719 W. 12th, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. M-F

Young’s Environmental Cleanup offices, 5305 N. Dort Highway, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. M-F

Dover & Co., 651 Hall, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. M-F