The Rapidian Home

SORT stations help WMEAC, ArtPrize divert waste from landfill

SORT stations are designed to make it easy for users to properly dispose of trash and recyclabes. WMEAC staff say the stations will help build a more educated public.
SORT stations at the Maker Faire

SORT stations at the Maker Faire /Submitted by WMEAC

Underwriting support from:

To volunteer

For more information on how to volunteer, visit this link.

A volunteer at a Maker Faire SORT station.

A volunteer at a Maker Faire SORT station. /Submitted by WMEAC

A SORT station during the Maker Faire.

A SORT station during the Maker Faire. /Submitted by WMEAC

When ArtPrize 10 begins on September 19, 2018, thousands of visitors and art lovers will descend upon downtown Grand Rapids. These visitors and onlookers will buy food, snacks and beverages to help satisfy their hunger and quench their thirst as they take in the art. The team at West Michigan Environmental Action Council, or WMEAC, wants to make sure all those leftover empty containers are disposed of properly.

One way ArtPrize visitors will be able to do so is through S.O.R.T. stations located in strategic spots downtown.

SORT stands for “Separate Organic Recycling Trash.”

“The SORT stations were an early collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids,” said Jessica Vander Ark, Director of Environmental Education at WMEAC. “The City of Grand Rapids actually owns the SORT stations and they’re the ones that coordinate setting them up.”

This fall will mark the third year the stations have been used during ArtPrize. The idea was created by stakeholders at ArtPrize, the Wege Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids, Kent CountyWMEAC, and The Image Shoppe, according to ArtPrize in this blog post.

“We thought it was important to show that doing an event and managing waste was very attainable at events, but that it just needed to be easy to use, easy to see,” Vander Ark said. “Those who plan ArtPrize have interest in being innovative and thinking about the event more holistically, the environmental impact of an event.”

WMEAC often serves as a partner in managing volunteers to work at the stations. If the waste or recycling is too contaminated at an event, organizers cannot take it, Vander Ark said, and the waste will have to go to the landfill.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure it’s good recycling and good compost that we are sending out,” she said.

“The ArtPrize partnership has really made the SORT stations more visible and I believe that’s resulted in more people seeking them out for events throughout the city.”

Once again this year, WMEAC and ArtPrize are looking for SORT volunteers. Because of the scope and size of ArtPrize, WMEAC is handling volunteers differently this year, said Ericka Popovich, WMEAC Communications and Community Engagement Coordinator.

“This year, because of all the feedback we’ve been getting from our volunteers who’ve been committed for multiple years now, we’re actually partnering a little more closely,” she said. “To get involved as a SORT volunteer this year, our volunteers will sign up through the same ArtPrize volunteer online hub for their volunteers.”

Volunteers will select their shifts through this system.

ArtPrize wants all of its volunteers to know about its sustainability goals, Popovich said, not just the SORT volunteers. Therefore, all volunteers will have more exposure to the stations to better understand how to use them. This will create a more integrated, comprehensive approach, she said.

This will create a greater understanding of how to use the stations for all of ArtPrize and helps them better meet their goals, Popovich said.

“If an event takes on the idea of manning these stations as part of the work that they just plan to do, it just sets up a better mold and a better precedent for managing that in the future,” Vander Ark said. “It’s good to try to integrate it into the whole program whenever you’re planning an event.”

In 2017, there were 238 individuals that volunteered at SORT stations during ArtPrize, according to WMEAC. There were 7.44 tons of recycling; 3.62 tons of compost and 31.13 tons of refuse to landfills.

The landfill diversion rate was nearly 61 percent for the stations, Popovich explained. Looking at all the waste produced over the 19 days of the event, the waste diversion rate was more than 26 percent.

Popovich said these numbers are “very impressive.”

Overall, the SORT stations help WMEAC further its mission and help build a more educated public when it comes to recycling and waste disposal.

“Part of our mission is keeping our communities sustainable. We are very aware of the economic loss that happens when our resources like plastic and metals aren’t properly disposed of,” Vander Ark said. “More and more we’re learning of millions of dollars of resources buried in landfills.”

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.