Recycling can start anywhere, and for Berrien County they pay close attention to where they can improve recycling. Local municipalities do offer curbside recycling in the area, but the parks department takes it one step further and helps to provide recycling for items not taken at the curb. They do this by hosting six collection events all across the county to reach as many people as they can. Last year alone, they had over 2,000 residents attend. Some of these collections include household hazardous waste, tire recycling, electronics, pesticides, plastic bag collections, and even more. They also try and help contribute to the drop off centers, providing funds to three different ones, all of which are fully accessible to any Berrien County resident. This is a great way to contribute and Berrien County knows that all local governments are important, so working together to help each other succeed and grow is a focus they plan on keeping for recycling.
Part of growing recycling in Berrien County is through education. Berrien County is a part of the Southwest Michigan Solid Waste Consortium and together Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Cass, Calhoun, St. Joseph, and Van Buren County work to support each other’s growth. They work very hard to get the word out about collection events, but they know that in order to get more people to come, they must educate residents on why they should participate in the events and why recycling is so important. This is why they spend 8-10% of their environmental programming budget on education and outreach. When they look to the state for future growth, they realize that their success stems from this education. It is imperative that in future budgets, education for residents is never left out. Since Berrien County realizes the need for education, they are doing a great job at staying on top of things. They were awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to help update their recycling guide. In an effort to grow recycling, they are even adding in information about composting even though they do not currently offer anything for organics. This is a great way that Berrien County is showing how recycling can continue to grow and progress, even if they don’t have the means to do so themselves at the time.
Not only do they try really hard to make these connections in the community but they also do in the workplace. Berrien County really pays attention to the little details, trying to be conscious of all recycling opportunities and to lead by example. They do this by making sure that employees have access to recycling in the office and lunch areas, as well as posting recycling information on office bulletins. To get a better idea of how their education and outreach is going, they conducted a random waste audit at a courthouse one day. They collected all garbage, separated everything out, and weighed it to get feedback on participation levels for recycling.
Recycling can be everywhere in this way. We just have to figure out how to get our communities and businesses involved. Recycling where you live, work, and play can be accomplished and Berrien County is not going to stop trying anytime soon.