Blog module icon

City Blog

Jan 20

City-owned vacant lots

Posted on January 20, 2021 at 12:04 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

A neighbor asked us about vacant, city-owned lots during a recent City Commission meeting, so here is some information about those, for everyone's benefit.

We currently have 725 vacant city properties. "Vacant" means the lot doesn't have any structures, like water towers or lift stations, but it does include parks and parking lots. If the lot is not used for a public purpose, we assess and place a value on the parcels.

Of those properties that are not exempt, the proposed 2021 state equalized value is $685,060.

How we sort city-owned parcels:
  • Can be listed with a real estate agent
  • Should be maintained for development opportunities
  • Can be turned into side lots
  • Should be considered to give to the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority, due to the amount of surrounding land, and/or little or no private ownership in the area
Over the last six or seven years, we have used inquiries, bulk direct mail notices of availability, and a lot sale event to remove about 300 city taxable parcels from that list. Lot sales have been on hold since because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have a handful we are working to process.

We planned a bulk mailing last spring, to seek interest on parcels we designated as side lot opportunities, and planned to list others with a real estate agent. Unfortunately, the pandemic disrupted those plans.

Depending on staff capacity, we hope to pursue the sale of taxable vacant lots in 2021.

Grassy, empty lot with a sidewalk at the lower left corner
Oct 30

City, WM tackle recycling contamination with tagging on Mondays

Posted on October 30, 2020 at 2:32 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

By Patty Hoch-Melluish
Environmental and Storm Service Manager

The City of Battle Creek and our contracted waste hauler, Waste Management, will pilot a recycling cart tagging program to help with the city’s ongoing recycling contamination problem.

Starting the week of Nov. 2, Waste Management drivers will focus on small sections of the City’s Monday recycling route to identify recycling carts that are contaminated with non-recyclable materials. Waste Management will tag contaminated Monday carts with a red sticker on the lid, indicating that there is trash or other non-recyclable materials in the recycling cart.

Waste Management will not empty your cart if they tag it; this is not a missed pickup. If WM tags your cart, you must correct the situation by removing the contamination. The tag will include WM’s phone number (800-796-9696), and you can call with questions on the materials in your cart. WM will tag a contaminated cart twice. The third time they find contamination, they will take away your recycling cart.

You can get back your recycling cart after having a phone call with city staff, to learn which materials are allowed in your curbside cart.

This is an effort to help Battle Creek recycle right. The city has struggled with recycling contamination, causing some of our weekly recycling routes to be taken to the landfill rather than the recycling facility. Too much non-recyclable material in the recycling stream decreases the value of the materials. Be sure to put your clean and dry recyclables in the cart loose. Anything in a bag is considered contamination. Plastic bags are the No. 1 cause of contamination in the city’s recycling.

The City of Battle Creek is committed to recycling right and we need your help! If you have questions about what is accepted in your curbside recycling cart, visit or call Patty at the City of Battle Creek Environmental Services at (269) 966-3355 ext. 1878.

Waste Management red tag

Jul 31

New ideas in the works as contamination diverts some city recycling

Posted on July 31, 2020 at 1:21 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

recycling blog banner
Recycling is not always easy – Is this carton recyclable? Do I have to wash this jar with soap? The challenge has increased in recent years as China – a major importer of recyclable materials – has become stricter with which materials they accept, and the level of contamination allowed.

Right now, China will accept loads of materials with a maximum 0.5 percent contamination. Contamination is, for example, recyclable items packed in plastic bags (plastic bags are NOT recyclable curbside), or wet items that have dampened and rotted cardboard in the same load.

By comparison, the City of Battle Creek currently faces a 30 percent contamination rate in some neighborhoods.

This has become a serious issue in city curbside recycling and, in March, Waste Management reached out to us with concerns about that contamination rate. The result is that the Holland facility that processes our recyclables started rejecting many truckloads from Battle Creek; WM has passed on that cost to the city, at roughly $1,650 per truckload.

WM found the highest contamination levels in loads collected from neighbors with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday pickup service, and they began diverting those loads to the landfill to avoid the rejection and cost. They anticipated this would be temporary and, as part of a January 2019 amendment to our contract with management, they may divert contaminated loads without notice.

After that March discussion, we planned to start an aggressive educational and outreach campaign, so we could help neighbors return to recycling Monday through Wednesday. However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck days later.

The city has faced staff reductions, and in-person education opportunities are extremely limited. This has left the recycling-to-landfill diversion in place to this point. Our Sustainable BC Committee recently discussed this issue – you can view the meeting here, on the city's Facebook page – and we received feedback that we should share the diversion issue with the community as soon as possible.

We agree.

Our environmental team has fully returned to work, and is working with other staff on education and outreach that is possible during the pandemic, to help everyone recycle again. They have taken recycling education to the Battle Creek Farmers Market, and appeared on the June episode of our AccessVision program, Keeping You Informed. You can watch that show on demand at

We cannot continue diverting recycling to the landfill, and paying the accompanying fee – it is not environmentally nor financially friendly.

We have some work to do.

We hope to start focused education in the affected neighborhoods, and discuss additional options, like asking neighbors to opt into a recycling program to keep their carts; amend our garbage ordinance to allow cart audits by city staff, for on-site education opportunities; work with WM on a tagging program, leaving contaminated carts and tagging them with that reasoning; and more.

Our current WM contract ends next spring; we will being the process this fall to seek a new contract. We anticipate introducing an amendment to our garbage ordinance this August to improve our next contract. Ideas include the opt-in recycling program; hauler-provided trash carts; eliminating single-stream recycling to reduce contamination; and more.

In the meantime, please keep these tips in mind:

  • Items like vacuums, clothes, diapers, toys, paint cans, dirty food containers, and plastic bags are not allowed in our curbside carts.
  • Please make sure your items are clean and dry when they go into your city cart. Keep the lid closed to avoid rain/water getting inside.
  • Items must be inside the container; drivers will leave behind a cardboard box placed next to your cart, because our WM recycling trucks pick up the carts with robotic arms.
  • Visit for much more information.

We know this is frustrating news, especially for our devoted recyclers. Despite the COVID-19-related delays, please know we consider it a high priority to get the recycling program back on track.

If you are in an affected neighborhood, we encourage you to keep recycling, if possible, by dropping off your materials to Waste Management’s Springfield facility, at 4547 Wayne Road. There are additional drop-off opportunities at the Marshall Recycling Center, and C&C Landfill – visit and for more information. The county’s page includes an interactive map.

We appreciate everyone’s patience and attention to recycling – we believe in Battle Creek, and in recycling. You can share questions and feedback to, or 269-966-3355 ext. 1878.. We will continue to share updates as the recycling situation changes.