New Program Aimed at Improving Michigan Recycling

July 31, 2017

Around 148 million people have access to a plastic recycling program in the U.S.; that’s roughly 60% of the entire population of the country. But not every person — or even every state — avails themselves of those programs equally.

Michigan has one of the worst recycling records in the nation, 20% compared to the national average of 29% and regional average of 31%. But now, a new initiative from regional waste authority SOCRRA is earning the praise of recycling advocates. The initiative is simple, replacing small curbside bins with over 100,000 waist high carts with flip tops.

“Starting in a couple weeks, we’ll be delivering carts to all of the single-family homes in our SOCRRA communities,” Colette Farris, a SOCRRA recycling development specialist, said to C and G News. “The goal is to increase that number to 32,000 tons over the next couple of years with the implementation of cart-based mixed recycling.”

Farris reasons that these new carts will make it easier for residents to recycle, and thereby encourage more people to participate in recycling programs.

“A lot more people are going to do a lot more recycling with these carts,” said Farris to the Detroit Free Press. She noted that already her own mother, who is in her 80s, has already proven to be more willing to recycle given the ease the new carts afford.

But it isn’t just the matter of convenience that has blocked recycling programs from achieving the same success in Michigan as they see elsewhere. Garbage also plays a large role.

Landfills are big business in Michigan, with a number of other states and even Ontario, CA., sending their waste to Michigan. That is because Michigan does not charge more for out of state garbage, the result of a 1990 Michigan Supreme Court Decision in the case Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Natural Resources. For business in states or provinces that charge a high tax for waste, it is cheaper to ship it to Michigan.

At the same time, market interest in recycled commodities has waned, making recycling more expensive than it has been in the past. But for advocates, increasing consumption of items like bottled water has made recycling a priority. For instance, Americans now use roughly 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour.

“These materials that people recycle are going right back into the economy to make new products, so we don’t cut down trees and we don’t use virgin plastic and virgin glass.” Justin Gast, a technical specialist with Virginia based non-profit Recycling Partnership, said. “And don’t forget, recycling is a much bigger jobs creator than simply taking all this waste to a landfill.”

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