Kent County’s recycling program—which serves Grand Rapids—has been expanded to allow for the recycling of plastic materials numbered 1 through 7. This is a significant expansion as the recycling program used to only accept plastic materials numbered 1 and 2. The city is expecting to see a significant increase over the 12,261 tons of plastic recycled last year. Moreover, the program now accepts plastic grocery bags which will hopefully contribute, however minimally, to reducing their destructive impact on the environment. Those who are not currently enrolled in Grand Rapids’ free recycling program can pick up free recycling bins from the City Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 4:00pm at the Streets and Sanitation Department (201 Market Ave SW). Additionally, Kent County offers free services for hazardous waste disposal.
It’s important to remember that while recycling is considerably better than simply burying items in landfills, there are frequently limited uses for plastic materials once they have been processed and more importantly, recycling does nothing to address the question of product design. In addition to recycling, people are strongly encouraged by the federal government and environmental groups to practice the first two components of the “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” motto by reducing what they buy in the first place (buying more durable products, avoiding products with a minimal amount of packaging) and reusing things such as food jars for storage or using a reusable coffee cup instead single use cups. The City of Grand Rapids has a few tips on reducing waste at the point of purchase and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) has further tips for reducing waste and reusing materials.