Jessica Mathews /

Livingston County’s only non-profit recycling center is getting a much-needed new building and equipment to aid operations.

The project at Recycle Livingston is being funded through a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for more than $282,000; $171,000 in matching funds from the Kellogg Foundation; and the non-profit is also contributing roughly $100,000 toward the cost.

Executive Director Julie Cribley tells WHMI they began forming in 1989 and were just a group of volunteers that wanted recycling because there wasn’t any and they used to operate out of the VG’s parking lot. She says it became very popular and they moved to their current location at 170 Catrell Street, where they’ve been for over 30 years now.

The City of Howell leases the site to Recycle Livingston for $1 a year. Due to the grant funds and requirements, an agreement was also reached in that the City will be acting as the fiduciary for the project.

Cribley says the markets and the ways to recycle keep shifting and changing – some of which are good and some are bad. She says the selling point for Recycle Livingston’s material is that it is sorted and it is clean – and they are actually recycling the material they’re collecting. Currently, the facility has compactors but doesn’t own them.

Cribley says when a vendor owns the compactors, they get to dictate to them the market value cost etc. and over the years, garbage haulers keep buying each other out. She says currently they have GFL, which owns the compactors, and charges $200 a load to transport it. Cribley said that sometimes they get paid if the company considers it enough market value to share, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they have to pay for the load plus transportation – adding it’s been hard to keep their “head above water”.

She noted the mobile home they’ve been using for an office is falling into a state of disrepair and they’re excited to construct a new building and office space. The building will be for processing and materials will continue to be collected on-site. It will have a sign on it for the Foundation, along with the Recycle Livingston sign. However, the project has been held up due to various issues including COVID-19 delays, and contamination concerns on the property next door.

Cribley says they’re mostly run by volunteers and are supported by paid memberships because the markets fluctuate so much and recycling can get quite expensive.

Cribley stressed they want people to think about things as “material management” versus trash and it is a labor-intensive operation.

Cribley says they currently have four compactors but don’t own them and their goal is to purchase two bailers for inside the new building and then get compactors that can operate outside. She says they’re waiting to see how the numbers come in to determine how many they can afford.

Cribley says they’ve only been able to survive over the years because they have so many great volunteers. However, she says they are aging and hopes the new building will inspire others to start volunteering because they need the younger generation to keep building the future.

A spring groundbreaking is planned for the project.