GVSU creates portable rural recycling center

GVL / Courtesy - GVSU.edu
Assistant professor Nick Baine and the portable recycling unit in Hastings township.

GVL / Courtesy – GVSU.edu Assistant professor Nick Baine and the portable recycling unit in Hastings township.

Meghan McBrady

To help rural areas grow green, Grand Valley State University has partnered with Hastings Township to build a prototype of a portable rural recycling center.

The recycling center, which is powered by renewable energy and took over three years to develop, is placed within rural areas due to high costs and a lack of a curbside recycling pickup.

Nick Baine, an assistant professor of engineering at GVSU, said the project was created to test out a mobile recycling grid that can be economically visible for individuals to recycle materials beyond the standard pop can, bottle or paper items.

“In urban areas, like Grand Rapids, you can request a recycle bin and get everything picked up by that recycling center, while when you are in a rural area there are no recycle pickups, just trash,” Baine said. “So in that area, we wanted to create a place that can collect various plastics, metal cans and cardboard that will essentially give people an excuse to recycle.”

Currently, the prototype is in the parking lot of the Hastings Township Hall and is made from an old semi-trailer. Calling the building itself a recycled product, Baine said windows and doors were cut into the sides of the trailer to allow recycled materials to be dropped off.

Solar panels are also installed on the roof to send power to the batteries within the building so that the lights and security cameras will continue to work throughout the morning and night.

Jim Brown, the supervisor at Hastings Township Hall, said the solar panels on the roof also allows the center to completely self-sufficient as the recycling unit could then be placed in areas where there are no power lines.

“Solar was chosen to be a labor saving device that would uphold the concept of this being a place where you can have power whenever and wherever you want,” Brown said. “It doesn’t look like you average trash dump off, but it’s this elegant and clean power system that will allow residents to drop materials off and make recycling easier for any rural setting.”

The Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) also helped GVSU and Hastings Township with creating the portable recycling center. Kim Walton, the program manager at MAREC, worked with the township since they first started working on the project and helped provide resources and worked with a solar installer to design parts for the recycling center.

Walton, who has a degree in renewable energy, indicated that the key role of the recycling center was to establish that this center is to not just promote recycling but to also promote cleaner thinking throughout the entire Hastings Township and then to other cities and communities.

“The people around that township are willing to sort out the recyclables before they go into the bin, showing that people are recognizing more options than just throwing away the used materials,” she said. “With all this interest with the recycling unit as a stable source of power and clean energy, we can potentially see this being manufactured into a business.”

To find out more information about renewable energy technology and energy savings improvements, visit www.gvsu.edu/marec.