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Waste Not? Recycling at the Cherry Festival

Mike Krebs, Traverse City Record Eagle

The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City attracts people from all over the world. Last year there were an estimated 550,000 attendees, so it isn’t surprising that an event of this size can generate upwards of 77,160 pounds of waste.


Dealing with this amount of waste is a large task, only made more difficult by the fact that most of it is recycled. Last year 93 percent of that 77,160 pounds were recycled or composted, that’s 71,760 pounds recycled.

The Festival doesn’t do it alone, they are partnered with American Waste, a Michigan waste management company. Mike Bevelhymer is the general manager of American Waste, he has spent this week overseeing much of the company’s work at the Cherry Festival.

Bevelhymer said “We do a lot of special events, but an event of this magnitude, the Cherry Festival is by far the largest.”

He said collecting the trash is only part of the job, American Waste also does the sorting and separating, and with the Cherry Festival he said, there is even a team in town sorting it each day.

One issue that the recycling industry in the United States is currently facing is figuring out where to send recycled goods. In recent years many countries who previously took recycling have begun accepting less, and with recent trade conflicts with China, who is one of the largest importers of American recycling, it has become even harder to export recycling.

Bevelhymer said this hasn’t been an issue with his company.

He said, “due to the relationships that American Waste has established over the 15 years, the whole import export to China has had 0 effect on us, 100% of our material stays within the midwest, the majority of it is here in Michigan, we’ll send some material to Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.”

Bevelhymer said companies all over the midwest buy materials from American Waste, companies that make paper, cardboard, water bottles, milk jugs, car parts, and even lawn furniture. He said by selling to companies with products in mind, they are able to minimize the amount of unrecycled waste.