EGLE announces $2.8M effort to promote recycling in Northwest Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2019
Jill A. Greenberg, EGLE Public Information Officer, GreenbergJ@Michigan.gov, 517-897-4965

State, local funds part of Know It Before You Throw It education campaign

TRAVERSE CITY – The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on July 29 announced two major grants that, combined with local funds, will deliver more than $2.8 million to expand and improve recycling infrastructure in Grand Traverse and Emmet counties.

The grant announcements are part of the Traverse City launch of Know It Before You Throw It, EGLE’s first-ever statewide education campaign to better inform Michiganders on what can – and cannot – be recycled and how to recycle correctly.

EGLE’s goal is to promote awareness of cleaner recycling practices to reduce the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins. The state also wants to double Michigan’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately reach 45% annually. Michigan’s current 15% recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and ranks among the nation’s lowest.

“We want to inform and inspire more people than ever before in Michigan about how to recycle better,” said EGLE Assistant Director of the Materials Management Division Elizabeth Browne.

“This campaign is a first of its kind for Michigan that offers multiple benefits,” Browne said. “Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.”

Achieving EGLE’s 30% recycling goal would produce as many as 12,986 jobs, which translates into an economic impact of up to $300 million annually, according to the Expanding Recycling in Michigan Report prepared for the Michigan Recycling Partnership.

To move further toward that benchmark, EGLE unveiled nearly $1.3 million in Northwest Michigan region grants:

  • $800,000 that will support the Emmet County Department of Public Works’ $1.5 million plan to upgrade recyclable material processing technology, including the installation of robotic separating equipment, and increase access to a regional recycling processing facility for surrounding municipalities.
  • $474,000 that will support Kalkaska-based American Waste’s $1.3 million plan to produce higher-quality mixed paper recycling products available to Michigan manufacturers that need cleaner materials, including the purchase of fiber optical scanning and sorting equipment that will create more valuable recycled commodities for businesses statewide.

The Know It Before You Throw It campaign launches as communities across Michigan and the U.S. are struggling with international market shifts, resulting in higher costs for some local governments that fail to meet new industrywide cleanliness standards for recyclable materials.

EGLE officials were joined during the July 29 news conference at American Waste’s Material Recovery Facility in Traverse City by Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers; state Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington; state Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton; Emmet County Department of Public Works Director Andi Shepherd; and American Waste Co-Owners and Co-Presidents Eddie Ascione and Michael Ascione, among many civic leaders from the region.

“On behalf of Northwest Michigan residents, we applaud Gov. Whitmer, the Michigan Legislature and EGLE for their leadership and for working together to develop a strategy that will help improve and sustain our region’s environment now and throughout the 21st century,” Carruthers said.

Recycling in Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators in an overwhelmingly bipartisan move have increased EGLE’s funding for recycling from $2 million last year to $15 million in 2019. The extra funds will support development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and reinforce planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level.

“What’s really exciting about the Know It Before You Throw It campaign is that we’ve spent the past decade or more emphasizing the need to put more resources into recycling education and supporting local communities’ programs,” VanderWall said. “Michigan is now putting words into action.”

EGLE kicked off the campaign in Traverse City by introducing the Michigan Recycling Raccoon Squad, a six-member team of recycling champions who will serve as EGLE’s education ambassadors. EGLE-commissioned research shows that education is key for residents to learn how to properly recycle. For example: 50% of Michigan residents mistakenly believe they’re allowed to recycle plastic bags in their curbside recycling, which is prohibited by most municipalities but is permissible in Emmet County. That’s why EGLE advises people with questions to contact their local recycling agency for information.

  • 76% of Michiganders are unaware that food or liquid inside a jar or container that’s tossed in the recycling bin poses a risk of contaminating everything in the bin. EGLE recommends rinsing and emptying items before placing in the bin.
  • Michigan recycles more than 90% of bottles and cans that carry a deposit, but such returnable containers represent only 2% of all the waste Michiganders recycle every year. Almost 53% of the state’s municipal solid waste that goes to landfills could go to recycling facilities.

“Well-informed consumers make recycling work,” said Shepherd, who leads the nationally recognized recycling operations in Emmet County, where 80% of the residents recycle more than 40% of their trash.

“We understand that by investing in education, people learn the basics and think about what they’re recycling before they toss it,” Shepherd added. “As we grow our knowledge about recycling, we can improve our environment and build stronger communities.”

American Waste accepts recyclables from 19 counties across the region, including Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee and Missaukee. The company recycles plastics, for example, that are reused to become new bottles, plastic lumber and molded plastic products in Detroit and other Midwest cities, while paper and fiber products are processed by American Waste for repurposing by companies across Michigan.

“Michigan manufacturers rely on a clean, steady supply of recycled materials to make new products,” Eddie Ascione said. “If the recyclables are contaminated, businesses can’t get what they need from companies like American Waste to produce their products. EGLE’s campaign is good for business and will help employers create more prosperous local economies.”

Five decades have passed since Michigan’s historic accomplishment with bottle deposit legislation that earned the state national acclaim as an environmental champion, noted Hoitenga.

“Michigan has unfortunately gotten complacent over that time,” she said. “We can – and must – become America’s leaders again in recycling. The EGLE campaign is a tremendous opportunity for Michigan to advance to the next level of performance in protecting our environment.”

More information about the Know It Before You Throw It campaign is available at RecyclingRaccoons.org.

To stay up to date on other EGLE News, follow us at Michigan.gov/MIEnvironment

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