Plant tour shows students, citizens where their recycling goes

Josh Echt

Wendelin Taylor, project coordinator and education specialist at the Portage County Recycling Plant, conducted a public recycling tour Saturday.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Elisa King, 8, walks on the tour conducted by Wendelin Taylor, project coordinator and education specialist at the

Portage County Recycling Plant. The tour was open to the public Saturday.

Credit: Steve Schirra

BRIMFIELD TOWNSHIP – Quality time for most people results in a quiet dinner, a movie or maybe a pedicure, but for Mentor residents Tammy and Kendra Bernot, quality time also included a tour of a recycling center in Portage County.

 “Kendra and I also stayed at a hotel in Kent Friday night before touring the recycling center Saturday,” Bernot said, holding six-year-old Kendra’s hand and watching workers separate glass bottles from plastic bottles over the din of machinery. “I’m trying to pass the importance of recycling on to her at an early age.”

Bernot, Kendra and more than 30 others, including Ohio and Kent Environmental Council members, attended a Saturday morning tour of the Portage County Solid Waste District Recycling Center in Brimfield Township. The 35,000-square-foot facility, the largest publicly owned and operated facility in Ohio, was constructed in 1992 at a cost of $2.2 million.

Originally, the building housed a garbage transfer station.

“The trucks would dump their garbage on the floor, workers would separate it and transfer it into long-haul trucks headed for landfills,” said Charles Ramer, Portage County Solid Waste director.

Ramer said the Solid Waste District operates as a non-profit organization. The Portage County commissioners head the organization, he said, which operates on a $1.1 million annual budget.

“We sell $950,000 worth of recyclables to companies and make up the difference with moneys received from curbside cleanup programs,” he said.

In 1994, the district took over the facility from a private organization and converted it into the District Recycling Center in 1995.

Ramer said Portage County put $1.2 million into the facility and borrowed $1 million to complete the purchase.

Ramer said the center sorts the materials and sends them to market, recovering 95 percent of the commodity cost, such as aluminum soda cans. The soda cans, for example, are crushed together and made into cubes bailed with wire before being sent off, he said.

The center’s 47 workers process 45 tons of recyclables per day, or roughly 13,000 tons per year, said Wendelin Taylor, education specialist for the Portage County Solid Waste District.

The tour, co-hosted by Ohio Environmental Council and Kent Environmental Council, is one of several events OEC offers to its members throughout the year, said OEC development director Susan King.

Area students and citizens said they felt the tour satisfied their curiosity about where their recyclables go.

“I’ve always wanted to see where my plastics go,” said junior Spanish major Marisol Green. “I’ve been curious for about 10 years.”

Contact public affairs reporter Josh Echt at [email protected].