GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) —Everyday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the National Cherry Festival, volunteer Larry Gray is hard at work.
“I move usually 150 to 200 a day,” Gray said while loading a trash can onto his cart. The fourth generation Traverse City resident first volunteered at the festival as a 12-year-old Boy Scout and has returned almost every year since.
"Yup, almost every year,” Gray said proudly. He turned 68 in May. "I’ve done everything from operations to dipping ice cream."
"We have over 400 totes on the ground that are emptied daily,” said American Waste General Manager Mark Bevelhymer. American Waste has handled garbage services for the National Cherry Festival for the past two years. With a large number of visitors, the trash can pile up.
“Last year from my knowledge, we collected about 30 tons of material," Bevelhymer said. "So it’s pretty considerable.”
Thirty tons equates to 60,000 pounds of trash. With all of that accumulating throughout the week, it takes volunteers like Gray to make it all possible.
"It's not a fun job, it's not an easy job, but it's a very necessary job," Gray said. "When the town goes from 60,000 to 300,000, 400,000 or 500,000, they create a lot of garbage... if we didn’t pick it up on a regular basis, we’d have a huge problem.”
In 56 years as a volunteer, Gray has noticed considerable changes, such as the amount of waste that is recycled. According to Bevelhymer, American Waste was able to recycle just over 90% of the waste collected at last year's festival, and he hopes they can top that number this year.