This small island has no landfill and the high costs of shipping waste off the island prompted the city to provide weekly residential composting and recycling to all residents. Businesses are also served by the program and are required to sort for recycling and composting.
Mackinac Island is a small island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan known as a popular tourist destination. The island hosts up to 15,000 visitors per day but only has a few hundred permanent residents. Mackinac has limestone bedrock, which is too porous to support landfill operations, so all trash must be shipped to the mainland. The island closed its landfill in 1992 and has been collecting food scraps for composting since then.
This community has developed robust composting and recycling programs because of the relatively high costs of landfilling – about every 2.5 days, a 30-yard dumpster is shipped to the mainland at a cost of $1,200 (2010).
Collection is done using horse-drawn trailers, as cars are not allowed on the island. Mackinac Island Service Company provides the pick-up service, and the compost is processed at the city-run Mackinac Island Solid Waste Handling Facility. The facility shreds the organic waste and then mixes it with hay, straw, and manure before using the aerated static piles to create the finished compost.
Residents buy disposal bags from the city Department of Public Works – blue is for landfill, and beige compostable bags are for composting. The cost of compost bags is $1.50 per bag, and the cost for a trash bag is $3.00 per bag. The higher cost for landfill bags incentivizes residents to compost. Recycling is free and collected in bins.
Businesses also receive curbside collection service from the city. Businesses must separate their waste for recycling and composting.
The program accepts food waste and paper products such as cereal boxes, butcher paper, paper bags, office paper, mail, tissues and napkins, milk cartons, paper plates, telephone books, textbooks, and unlined pet food bags. Compostable bags are also acceptable.
Businesses and residents who don’t separate properly are sent letters explaining the procedure. Each bag is opened and screened for contamination at the composting facility. The city can fine businesses for not properly sorting.
The island averages 50% waste diversion – 25% is compostable material and 25% is recyclable. The island collects about 635 tons of food waste from residences and businesses along with 500 tons of yard trimmings and 4,500 tons of manure. In 2009, the solid waste handling facility received around 100 bags of compost per day. About 700 – 1,000 cubic yards of finished compost is produced every year and sold mostly on the island, with some products starting to go off-island to nearby communities