Benton Harbor recycling program brings in more than 16,000 lbs. of empty water bottles

Ibrahim Samra at WNDU.com

Jun 17, 2022

At the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, hundreds of thousands of water bottles are distributed every week.

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - At the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, hundreds of thousands of water bottles are distributed every week.

“We house the water for the homebound home deliveries that go through 211 to get signed up, and then we also have a self serve on the days that the distribution sites are not I’m handing out water,” Executive Director Kim Smitholdham says.

And since distribution began back in September,13 million bottles of free water have made it in the hands of Benton Harbor residents.

“We work with Department of Health and Human Services, EGLE, and the local health departments and local churches too,” Smitholdham says.

But when bottles are empty, residents are not throwing them out. Instead, they are taking them to a bottle recycling trailer located outside the Housing Commission at 721 Nate Wells Sr. Drive.

The trailer is conveniently located next to the water distribution site at the Boys and Girls Club, and one of eight trailers already been filled with more than 16,000 lbs. of empty water bottles as part of the city’s recent recycling program.

It all comes as the city of Benton Harbor continues to replace its lead pipes.

“You don’t want to consume water because there’s lead in it,” Smitholdham says.

And while there continues to be struggles, Smithholdham says Benton Harbor is slowly making its way back to turning on the tap.

“I think they are half way through on the lead lines but this is going to go until all of them are replaced, everybody has filters, and until this date, and when the health department feel it’s safe to drink the water.”
Large plastic bags are handed out at each distribution event for folks to dump their empty water bottles into.

When full, folks can drop off bags of empty water bottles at a local distribution site, or inside a semi trailer located outside the Housing Commission parking lot.