By: Samantha Rypstra, WMEAC Lakeshore Fellow
Swimming in the Lake Michigan waves, hiking the trails at the state park and eating and drinking your way down Western Avenue are just a few of the many ways to spend a summer afternoon in Muskegon County, and when summer quickly fades to fall and winter, the list of things to do does not disappear. Bodies of water become places to ice skate and ice fish and sand dunes become sledding hills. Growing up in the area, I got to spend so much time enjoying the unique landscape no matter the season and I quickly learned there aren’t many places quite like it.
When I went to college, I knew I wanted to get a degree that gave me the knowledge and skills to protect the unique place I grew up in and its natural resources. Since graduating, I have returned to Muskegon County to do exactly that. As the Lakeshore Fellow for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), I’ve assisted the Lakeshore Outreach Organizer, Tanya Cabala, with projects to protect and also improve the places that make up the West Michigan lakeshore where I grew up.
We’ve spent the most time recently on a major project to improve recycling in Muskegon County, supported by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). We are working with many partners throughout Muskegon County, including local elected officials, representatives of community organizations, educators and businesses, in a group we have come to call the Muskegon County Recycling Network.
The project is built on a 2017 county recycling study which found the recycling rate to be only 12%. This means that across Muskegon County only 12% of items that COULD be recycled WERE being recycled. Our goal has been to come up with a positive vision for better coverage of recycling services and programs, to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill, and help to bring new recycling opportunities to our local businesses, and of course, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
We are excited that we now have updated information about recycling sites and programs in the county, along with current trends. Our partners have agreed on a list of suggested improvements we think will improve overall accessibility to recycling programs, increase the current recycling rate across the county, and provide consistent educational messaging to county residents about how and where to recycle. The timing of this work is fortunate, as recent changes to state solid waste law require counties to provide specific levels of access to curbside and drop off programs in the next few years. There will be many exciting happenings in our state due to these new requirements and it will be great for our county to be at the front of the line for the new economic opportunities created!
As an environmentalist and resident of Muskegon County, I am proud to be involved in this worthwhile effort in my hometown and hopeful for it to make Muskegon County a leader in recycling. I am excited to continue to see the county as a whole commit to this project and other initiatives that will keep the unique place I call home, beautiful for residents and visitors alike. Please find out more about the project here, Watch an educational webinar, and take our survey, to add your ideas and to be part of the recycling solution for Muskegon County! To learn more about the Muskegon County Recycling Project or to get involved, please contact WMEAC lakeshore outreach organizer, Tanya Cabala at firstname.lastname@example.org or (231)798-5196.
IF YOU ARE A MUSKEGON COUNTY RESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE THIS SURVEY TO HELP US GAIN INFORMATION TO BEST MEET THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY AS WE WORK TO MAKE RECYCLING MORE ACCESSIBLE AND SUCCESSFUL ACROSS THE COUNTY.