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Huntington Woods

October 9, 2013

Huntington Woods wins $15K recycling challenge grant

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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The Huntington Woods Department of Public Works was awarded a $15,000 grant for taking second place in the SC Johnson Green Choices Challenge. The city will use the grant to put recycling bins, like this one near City Hall, next to every trash can on public property.

HUNTINGTON WOODS — The Huntington Woods Department of Public Works was awarded a $15,000 grant from SC Johnson after finishing in second place during the Green Choices Challenge.

The challenge, which ran from July 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012, measured household participation in curbside recycling and total city recycling tonnage. A community from each state was selected to compete. The Lakes at Red Rock in Leesburg, Va., took first place.

DPW manager Claire Galed said Huntington Woods would use the grant money to place recycling containers near every trash can on city property.

“The $15,000 grant is a huge tribute to this community, and it is really amazing how many people signed up, and it went well beyond what I expected and what Recyclebank expected,” Galed said. Recyclebank, which gives reward points for environmentally friendly actions, sponsored the challenge with SC Johnson. “It has been a goal of mine and my committee to make recycling as easy all around town as it is in a resident’s own home and for it to be just as important all around Huntington Woods. We have garbage cans everywhere, but we don’t have enough recycling bins.”

As the only Michigan community, Huntington Woods residents had access to Recyclebank for free to record their green measures and earn coupons for their deeds. Galed said about 47 percent of Huntington Woods households participated in reporting their recycling, but participation that contributed to actual tonnage was higher.

Galed said Rochester Hills and Westland are two communities in eastern Michigan that participate in Recyclebank, and she was always interested in how an incentive-based program would do.

“When Recyclebank started 10 years ago, it was a relatively new thing for an incentive program, and I was wondering what kind of an impact does an actual incentive have on recycling,” she said. “I could never, in my mind, justify the cost to pay to be part of it, but when we were asked to be in this program, I was really excited at the opportunity to have some fun and look at the incentive program up close and personal.

“Having looked at it, we can now evaluate the program as a whole shortly after the new year.”

Last year, the Huntington Woods City Commission adopted a policy that recycling should be available throughout the city, inside and out. The mandate from the commission was to make recycling as easy or easier than throwing things in the trash, destined for a landfill.

The city receives payment for materials taken to the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, while the city pays to have waste disposed of in a landfill.

“This money is a wonderful opportunity to move forward with something that we feel is very important,” Galed said. “It is kind of like found money; it is not money we expected, and we didn’t have it budgeted for anything specific. We pay to throw stuff in the landfill, but we get paid when we turn it over to SOCRRA.”

City Manager Alex Allie said Huntington Woods has always been big on recycling in his more than two decades of being in the city’s government. The grant will allow the city to improve on what it has already established, he said.

“It is always great to be recognized and even more so with the grant,” Allie said. “We will put it to good use, and I think the reason Huntington Woods has been as successful as we have been in our recycling efforts is the fact that we educate the public. We have so many different resources we use to educate on how to recycle and the benefits, and that is what we will be doing with the money.”

The money that the city has received from SOCRRA in the past has been put to good use, Galed said. And, while it is not a lot, it has saved the city money in tight times.

“Last year, our rebate was $50 a ton and it cost $26 a ton to throw away, so we benefited more than $75 every time we moved from trash to recycling,” she said. “In the last fiscal year, the rebate not only paid for the trucks that go around and pick up recycling, it also paid for a portion of all collection — from yard waste to landfill material.

“If we can divert material to recycling, it is a win-win for everyone.”