Bill Leech has a simple philosophy when it comes to recycling.

“Anytime you can save something and
somebody can recycle it, I think it’s a splendid idea,” the, owner of
Bill Leech Repair Service, 2017 E. Michigan Ave., said.

Leech’s business is one of almost 90
participants in a single-stream recycling program the city of Lansing
started in August that aims to do for businesses what the year-old
residential cycling program has been doing for homes.

The business has been using the program
to recycle everything from computer paper to plastic bottles and cans.
Leech said the biggest benefit of the program is the convenience of not
having to go out to the dumpster to get rid of a lot of trash. Instead,
he can put it in the recycle containers in his own building, take it to
the street and know it will be taken away.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s a good program. I think everybody should do it.”

The business pilot program, which opens
Lansing’s single-stream recycling program to businesses in downtown,
Old Town and Michigan Avenue, is just one of three new pilot programs.
The other two will be announced Thursday. One will place recycling
containers on public sidewalks to encourage recycling for people on the
go. The second will replace a neighborhood’s 13-gallon recycling bins
with 96-gallon carts to allow families to recycle even more than they
do already.

“People want to recycle at home, they
want to recycle at work, they want to recycle on the go,” said Lori
Miller of Capital Area Recycling and Trash. “It’s the complete package.”

Lansing switched to single-stream
recycling a year ago, transitioning residents from a seven-stream
recycling model, said Chad Gamble, Lansing’s public works director. The
old system limited the amount of recyclables residents could dispose
of. It also added time to CART drivers’ routes since they had to
manually sort each household’s bin into a compartmentalized truck.

A single-stream system allows for more
commodities, such as different numbered plastics, small appliances and
glass, to be recycled. It also eliminates sorting making it easier for
resident, Gamble said.

Since switching to single-stream,
residential recycling has increased 41 percent, Gamble said. The
program’s success encouraged CART to increase its recycling services,
which led to the pilots.

Even though the program is new, Miller said the response to the business pilot has been very positive so far.

“The first couple weeks I think we
averaged it out that they were setting out about 35 pounds of recycling
per business,” Miller said. “I think that’s pretty successful.”

A unique aspect of the program is the
free waste assessment offered for participants, Miller said. The
assessment includes a walkthrough of the business, which is designed to
find areas where materials can be eliminated or reused further to lower
the amount of waste generated. About a third of the businesses have
received an assessment so far.

“I did a waste assessment for a business that had a big
trash dumpster and they were getting it dumped three times a week,”
Miller said. “We were estimating that they could at least go down to
one or maybe two dumps a week. They’re paying every time that trash
company comes and dumps it so that’s a real savings for (the business)
using the recycling program because a lot of the stuff in that dumpster
was recyclable.”

Gamble said the recycling program helps
businesses save money by reducing the amount of waste in dumpsters or
trash bags. He said about 80 percent of materials are recyclable, which
can help a business reduce costs by purchasing a smaller dumpster or
reducing the number of trash pick-ups.

LeRoy Harvey, recycling coordinator for
Meridian Township, said Meridian is watching Lansing’s program to see
if it could implement something similar for businesses.

“Meridian is excited about this pilot effort that Lansing is doing,” Harvey said. “We want to learn about how it goes.”

has a single-stream recycling program for residents, but there is no
program for businesses, Harvey said. The closest thing the township
offers is a Green Star recognition program, which recognizes businesses
that regularly recycle two items or make efforts to conserve resources.
Harvey said about 100 businesses are Green Star members.

 “There’s still a lot of opportunity for businesses and households to reduce waste,” Harvey said.

Granger, the company in charge of
Meridian Township’s trash collection, chose to switch to single-stream
recycling for the same reasons Lansing did, said Tonia Olson, director
of governmental and community relations at the company. 

Single-stream makes recycling easier,
but there are some trade-offs, Olson said. While collection costs have
decreased, processing costs have increased because materials have to be
sorted in order to make new products.

“Recycled products are a commodity, they
do have a price,” Olson said. “When things are co-mingled as they are
in single stream that means that it’s a little more difficult to pull
them apart to make more products. It’s like a recipe. If (the product)
requires No. 1 plastics then you only want that.”

However, Olson said the advantages of
single-stream recycling, such as added convenience and an increase in
accepted materials, outweigh the disadvantages. 

Lansing’s recycling success inspired
another pilot program, replacing the standard residential 13-gallon
recycling bin with a larger 96-gallon cart, Gamble said. The same
cost-saving benefits for businesses also apply for families, he said.
The more you recycle, the less waste collection you have to pay for.

“People have been noticing they’re
recycling more than they’re throwing away at this point,” Miller said.
“If they’re using the service and they’re recycling everything they
can, that’s the shift — they have less trash now and more recycling.”

About 300 homes in a neighborhood near Tecumseh River Road in northwest Lansing will participate, Gamble said.

The third program will place a total of
six public recycling containers in downtown and Old Town for people to
use on the go, Miller said. The program is similar to Michigan State
University’s set-up, which couples recycling containers and garbage
containers to encourage people to recycle what they can.

“It’s kind of new territory for us,” Miller said. “We’re not sure what to expect.”

The environmental benefits of the
recycling program are already being realized, said Taylor Heins,
director of Lansing’s Go Green! Initiative. The current residential
program helped Lansing recycle over 2,400 tons of materials in less
than one year.

“That, combined with our other energy reduction measures
in city buildings, saved 30,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (last
year), which is huge,” she said. “We’re expecting that number to go up
significantly now that the businesses are involved.”

According to CART’s website, for every
1,000 tons of recyclables collected, 14,903 trees, 6,404,606 gallons of
water and 408,412 gallons of gasoline are saved.

“The more we take in the more resources we’re saving,” Miller said.

Each pilot program lasts six months and
is funded entirely through grant money from the U.S. Energy Department
as part of the Obama administration’s Recovery Act of 2009. If
everything goes well, the city could potentially start a citywide roll
out by the spring.

“It really is the natural progression of this program,” Gamble said.