Government and Sustainability

Snyder targets Michigan’s poor recycling record

More than $435M in recyclable materials is sent to state landfills each year.

April 18, 2014
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The state has formed the Michigan Recycling Council and will pump about $1.5 million into recycling efforts. Courtesy Thinkstock

Gov. Rick Snyder is asking Michiganders to stop taking out the trash.

On Monday, Snyder announced a statewide plan designed to increase residential recycling access statewide.

Snyder also announced a new nine-member committee, the Michigan Recycling Council, which is charged with guiding the plan’s implementation. All members will serve two-year terms.

The new recycling effort will receive $1 million in financial support, which is included in the governor’s 2015 budget, and $500,000 in Department of Environmental Quality pollution prevention grants over the next two years to support local recycling programs.

Currently, Michigan’s recycling rate for residential household waste is less than 15 percent, while the national average is 35 percent, making Michigan among the worst in the nation for residential recycling.

The DEQ reported that of Michigan’s 83 counties, only 25 provide residents with convenient access to recycling.

“Michigan has a strong tradition of protecting and enhancing its environment,” Snyder said. “But when it comes to recycling, we must do better. Michigan trails other Great Lakes states and much of the nation in residential recycling.”

A recent study concluded that more than $435 million in recyclable metal, glass, paper and plastics goes from Michigan households to Michigan landfills each year.

At the same time, the market for those materials continues to grow.

“States with healthy recycling programs have found that, in addition to reducing pressure on landfills and helping the environment, recycling creates jobs and opens markets for recovered materials,” Snyder said. “We’ve been throwing away money for decades. Addressing this issue is simply the right thing to do, and I am pleased to announce we are committed to making Michigan a recycling leader.”

The DEQ drafted the plan in cooperation with 45 key stakeholders, including recyclers, landfill operators, manufacturers, waste haulers, bottlers, grocery store operators and others.

The 15-point plan addresses four key areas: better benchmarking and measuring of progress; public education and technical assistance for communities; providing convenient access; and developing markets.

Doug Wood, director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, was part of the stakeholder committee and is one of the nine appointees to the Michigan Recycling Council. He will serve as a representative for local governments and regions on the council.

“We’ve had recycling in Kent County for 30 years,” Wood said. “My role would be to provide some input in terms of our operation and how we got it going, and some of the issues and barriers.”

Wood said although Kent County does many things well, there is room for improvement.

“We need to do better in the rural areas and make sure they have the same opportunities as those in the urban areas,” he said. “Also, we have a large opportunity for small business recycling.”

Wood said two things that will help Kent County improve its recycling record are increasing education about recycling and providing additional options for residents.

“I do not think there are enough options for everybody,” he said.

Wood said he believes the region could easily double its recycling program.

Currently, the recycling plant processes 125 tons of materials daily and the facility is at capacity. An increase in recycling would result in the need for an additional recycling plant, something Wood said he already is investigating.

A new plant means more jobs for the region, too.

“If you look at the whole process of collecting and then us, we are the first step. We take it and bale it and we send it on to another company, and then they prepare it for a company to buy it so that they can make products,” he said.

“If we expand recycling, we are talking about more jobs and more businesses. I think Michigan is missing out on all of those steps. If we miss out on that, we are missing out on job opportunities, and that makes absolutely no sense.”

To learn more about residential recycling opportunities in Michigan or to see Michigan’s plan, go to michigan.gov/MIrecycles.

Michigan Recycling Council appointees

Michael Csapo, of Fenton, will represent the recycling community and is the general manager of Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County.

Jim Frey, of Detroit, will represent academics and consultants. He is CEO and co-founder of Resource Recycling Systems and has more than 30 years of expertise in environmental program development both in public service and private enterprise.

Linda Gobler, of Lansing, will represent the retailers on the council. She is president and CEO of the Michigan Grocers Association, where she has served in multiple capacities for the past 28 years.

Jim Kulp, of Dexter, will represent the processors. He has worked 32 years with Plastipak Packaging, and currently is operations manager for Clean Tech Inc., the state’s largest bottle recycling facility.

Bill Lobenherz, of Lansing, will represent the bottlers. He has served as the president of the Michigan Soft Drink Association for more than 25 years.

Kerrin O’Brien, of East Lansing, will represent environmental interests. She is the executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition and also has worked as an independent consultant, executive director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, resource recovery agent and a grant coordinator.

Tonia Olson, of Lansing, will represent waste haulers, the waste industry, and landfill owners and operators. She is the director of governmental and community relations for Granger. She also chairs the Michigan Chamber Energy and Environment Committee.

Elisa Seltzer, of Levering, will represent public and community interests. She has been the public works director for Emmet County for 24 years. She also has worked as a curbside recycling coordinator and personnel coordinator for Recycle Ann Arbor.

Doug Wood, of Muskegon, will represent local government and regions. He is the director of the Kent County Department of Public Works. He also has worked as the executive vice president of ECH Recycling Inc., project manager for a county resource recovery agency, manager of a county waste-to-energy project, and manager of the environmental health division of a county health department.

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