Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Northern Michigan transplant Andy Gale made recycling his life

Patrick Sullivan - April 22nd, 2013  

After 17 years as a sales rep for a California engineered wood products company, Andy Gale and his wife Cindy took a year off, hopped in an RV and toured the country.

“We criss-crossed the country a couple of times, looking for the perfect place to live,” Gale said.

In Southern California he missed the seasons. In Northern Michigan, he found them, and he and his wife fell in love with Traverse City and decided to settle here.

Next, Gale, now 46, had to find something to do.

In 2008, he decided to look for a green career. He decided he wanted to start a nonprofit that would encourage recycling and donate proceeds from the sale of collected material to charity.

“I knew nothing about starting a nonprofit. I knew nothing about recycling,” Gale said.


Gale’s first lucky break came through friends of his children. One of the friend’s parents happened to be the son-in-law of Ray Minervini, and Gale soon learned that Minervini wanted to use his development, the Grand Traverse Commons, as a sort-of small business incubator.

Gale gave Minervini a call. “He said, ‘You know, come over and talk to us, because we want to be greener, too,’” he recalls.

At first Gale had a modest proposal for the Commons, a massive mixed-use redevelopment of the former Traverse City State Hospital property west of downtown. He proposed to take care of a couple of recycling bins for $75 per month.

Minervini called him back and said he didn’t think that would work out.


But what Gale first thought was a setback turned out to be a bigger opportunity.

Minervini wanted Gale to submit a bid to take care of recycling for the entire Grand Traverse Commons complex.

That led to an agreement to handle the job for $1,200 per month. Eventually, that led Gale to house the offices for Bay Area Recycling for Charities at the Commons.

And Minervini wasn’t just a landlord. He also served as consultant, guide and friend to the fledgling nonprofit.

“It was pretty cool to have that kind of support as a start-up,” he said.

And BARC was going to need support because, as Gale admits, when he started, he didn’t know what he was doing.


That was a long time ago. Now Gale oversees an operation with 10 employees that has branched beyond recycling. The nonprofit also supplies businesses and festivals with compostable dinnerware.

Gale set about establishing the business as a nonprofit. First he had to get a mission statement approved by the state, something that showed that in exchange for tax-exempt status, the organization would benefit the community.

That would be no problem -- BARC would focus on recycling and educating people about recycling.

Next the group became registered as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit with the IRS.

It’s structured like this: money earned from contracts with businesses to take care of recycling goes to run the organization and pay salaries; income generated from profits earned from the sale of recycled materials like bales of shredded paper is donated to charity.

Gale said it took a while to get on sound financial footing.

“I didn’t take a paycheck for two years,” he said.


Almost right away, in 2008, they had another big client -- the Traverse City Film Festival.

Also almost right away, Gale and others who started out with BARC in the early days, including his nephew, Calvin Remington, realized that offering to recycle waste from a festival which included lots of used plates, plastic silverware and plastic cups, proved to be a harrowing undertaking.

As they scraped food waste by hand from thousands of discarded paper plates, they thought, ‘There must be a better way.’ “To get food waste away from everything else is critical because the food waste is the contaminator,” Gale said.

They came upon a solution -- BARC would become a distributor of compostable paper plates, plastic cups and plastic spoons, knives and forks.

They found manufacturers of dinnerware that could be thrown into the compost pile and turn into topsoil with the rest of the stuff.

Currently BARC is working on a deal to take over Grand Traverse County’s Keystone Road yard waste drop-off site so they could compost festival and restaurant waste with yard waste at that location. “We hope this will work out, though it’s not a done deal,” Gale said.


One challenge with running such an operation is that the market for recyclables is volatile and it crashed along with the rest of the economy in 2008, just as BARC was getting going.

“I thought it would be a lot more lucrative than it is,” Gale said.

Prices have begun to creep up but they still fluctuate wildly and have not returned to 2008 levels.

For example, Gale said lately 40,000 pounds of shredded paper sells for around $800. Considering how much time and energy it takes to prepare that load, Gale said he barely breaks even.

He hopes the other part of the mission of the nonprofit -- education -- can stir up the market for recycled materials.

“We ask people to question the packaging when they get something and it seems ridiculous. Send a message to the company,” Gale said. “By inspiring people to buy more recycled content, you actually drive the market for recycled content.”


• Cardboard: 1,560,000 lbs per year or 780 tons per year.

• Compost: 312,000 lbs per year or 156 tons per year.

• Comingled Recycling (Plastic/Glass/Metal): 260,000 lbs per year or 130 tons per year.

• Paper: 480,000 lbs per year or 240 tons per year.

• Batteries, CFL Bulbs, Fluorescents, Electronic Waste would be Universal Waste at 10 tons per year.

• Everything else like clothing, styrofoam, latex paint would add another 3-4 tons per year.

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