The Odawa Casino recently received Emmet County’s 2016 Recycler of the Year Award for its policy of finding ways to recycle many materials in the business. Barry Laughlin, Odawa Casino’s director of property operations, said the casino began recycling long before it opened for business. “During construction, one of the requirements the tribe had was that everything that was recyclable be recycled,” said Laughlin.

Since opening in 2007, the casino has been steadily growing its recycling and earned the county’s 2016 award.

Kate Mowbray, the casino’s lead wastewater technician, is charged with heading up the recycling programs. According to Mowbray, when the casino began operations in 2007, it started by just recycling cardboard, but soon added paper and mixed containers (including plastic containers, steel and aluminum cans, foil, glass and paper cartons). In recent years, casino workers have recycled around 56 tons of cardboard and 14 tons of paper and containers annually.

They also regularly recover roughly 1,200 pounds of scrap metal, 300 pounds of batteries, and 1,000 pallets a year. Electronics and ink cartridges are recycled, too. Fluorescent bulbs were recycled, but are now being replaced with LED lighting to further improve energy efficiency. When employee uniforms — as many as 535 — were last updated, the old were recycled.

Emmet County has been offering collection and composting of food and floral scraps to a limited number of businesses the past two summers. Casino officials signed up this summer and immediately became the program’s largest customer, diverting around 2,000 pounds of food waste a week to composting. Now the county is beginning to pilot winter food waste collection and the casino is on board, figuring out all the logistics presented by the cold and ice.

Having the buffet’s food waste collected for composting allowed casino leaders to reach a great milestone this past summer: they were able to reduce collection of garbage (handled using a waste compactor, as most large institutions do) from once every 10 days to once every 20 days, saving the business tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Discussions are underway about a variety of next steps to increase the casino’s recycling. At peak times of year, the recyclables exceed the system’s capacity to store and haul the materials. A baler on site has made cardboard storage and hauling more efficient and Laughlin and Mowbray are experimenting with baling the containers, as well. They plan to add food scraps collection at the casino’s fine dining restaurant and employee cafeteria next summer.

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