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Courtesy photo. Marc Williams.

By Shawn Personke

(Chelsea Update would like to thank the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority for the information in this story as well.)

Marc Williams has seen a few funny and strange things in his 10 years with the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. Like the time a World War II era rifle showed up in the recycling bins.

“It was one of those bolt action rifles,” he recalls, “that the French used. It was pretty cool.” After checking with Chelsea police who felt the broken rifle was not a threat, they delivered it to a gun collector.

Williams, WWRA Manager, has seen a few things, however, that he would never like to see again in the single stream system the WWRA has been using for the last five years.

Like garden hoses. And old couches.  And dirty diapers.  He’s not really sure why people think these are recyclable as they are a long way from paper, cardboard, plastics and glass – items the WWRA does recycle.

“The garden hoses tangle and chew up the system,” said Williams, who started at the WWRA as a sorter in 2007.  “If they get through the first and second screen, then they can stop the presses.”

He’s also seen lawn motor blades, brake rotors, wood, and, of course, the ubiquitous plastic bag.

“There’s no market for plastic bags and they end up in the landfill,” says Williams, noting that the amount of bags that they see is astounding.

“They can tangle up the screening cogs of the system, and then the guys have to stop the conveyor belts to make repairs.”

Even with these types of day-to-day operational challenges, Williams says he enjoys his job, probably because he’s always worked with machines and mechanics.

His father owned an auto service center in Ann Arbor, where he grew up. Many of his buddies’ dads were builders, so Williams was always fixing or building things.

It’s these skills he uses everyday while managing the enormous single stream machine that processes over 7,000 tons of recyclables a year.

Williams has been the WWRA manager for almost two years now, and he feels like he’s learned a lot about working with vendors and people, especially those who have to shovel, sort and screen the community’s recycled materials – which sometimes are not pretty.

“I try to remember what they are going through and keep a good atmosphere.”

But at the end of the day, the part of the job that gives Williams the most satisfaction is that they are doing a job that needs to be done.

“It’s nice to know we’re making a difference.”

The WWRA is funded and operated by member municipalities: the City of Chelsea, Dexter Township, Lima Township, Lyndon Township, and Manchester Township.

WWRA reminds community members that they can help with the recycling program by being aware of what items cannot be recycled.

These items include:

  • NO motor oil containers
  • NO plates, china, ceramics
  • NO mirrors, window glass, or light bulbs
  • NO tires
  • NO paints
  • NO styrofoam of any kind
  • NO bubble wrap
  • NO computers, monitors, keyboards and printers
  • NO visqueen
  • NO pool covers
  • NO plastic tarps
  • NO plastic bags
  • NO household batteries
  • NO propane tanks of any kind
  • NO construction waste
  • Many of these items can be disposed of at the annual Spring Clean Up Day, a partnership between the WWRA, the Chelsea Athletic Boosters, and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office.

For more information, visit www.wwrarecycles.org.

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One Response to “Marc Williams: WWRA Manager and Master of Materials”

  1. Mary Beth Lampe says:

    WHat about “flimsy” plastic, like disposable fast food drink lids? Or deli containers? (They might have a number on them but I have heard they don’t go thru the machines well) Is this true?