EGLE teams with Kalamazoo in push to set city's all-time record for household curbside recycling by 2025

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2019
Jill A. Greenberg, EGLE Public Information Officer, GreenbergJ@Michigan.gov, 517-897-4965
EGLE Media Office, EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov, 517-284-9278

Effort part of regional kickoff for Know It Before You Throw It education campaign  

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and Kalamazoo-area leaders in government, business and environmental advocacy today joined in challenging city residents to set a new recycling record.

The city of Kalamazoo’s partnership with EGLE aims to collect a record-breaking 2,500 tons of household recyclables annually by 2025. Approximately 11,000 Kalamazoo households with curbside service recycled a total of 2,139 tons in 2018. The Kalamazoo City Commission will issue a proclamation at its Monday night meeting in support of this effort.

The collection goal is part of the Kalamazoo-area 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.

“This community truly cares about our environment and knows how important it is to protect it for generations to come,” Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell said today at a news conference at the City of Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant that announced EGLE’s regional campaign kickoff. “Now it’s time for each of us to step up our efforts by sending less waste to landfills and recycling and reusing whenever possible.”

EGLE’s goal is to grow 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 strive to inform and inspire more people than ever before in Kalamazoo and across Michigan about how to recycle better,” said EGLE Materials Management Division Director Jack Schinderle. “Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling is not only the right thing to do, it also saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.”

Recycling in Michigan generates nearly 36,000 jobs and a payroll of $2.6 billion, a 2016 analysis commissioned by EGLE shows. Achieving EGLE’s 30% recycling goal would produce a statewide total of 13,000 new jobs, which translates into an additional economic impact of up to $300 million annually, according to findings from the Expanding Recycling in Michigan Report prepared for the Michigan Recycling Partnership.

The Know It Before You Throw It campaign comes while communities across Michigan and the U.S. are struggling with international market shifts for recyclables.

“Changes within the recycling industry are resulting in higher costs for some local governments that fail to meet new industrywide cleanliness standards for recyclable materials,” said state Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo. “That’s why it’s important for each of us to help spread the Know It Before You Throw It message and join Kalamazoo’s commitment to increasing its recycling numbers.”

The city of Kalamazoo operates its curbside recycling collection program through a voter-approved millage. Since the city converted to single-stream recycling two years ago, participation has more than doubled with 65% of Kalamazoo’s 16,709 single-family households accounting for the 2,139 tons of material recycled in 2018.

To attain the new 2,500-ton goal by 2025, the city plans to increase its community outreach and recycling education efforts in cooperation with its recycling collection partner, Republic Services. The city of Kalamazoo has also partnered with a digital app called Recycle Coach to provide local rules on what can and cannot be recycled.

Well-informed consumers make recycling work, Schinderle said.

“By encouraging people to focus on the basics and think about what they’re recycling before they throw it, we can improve our environment and build stronger communities across the Kalamazoo region,” he 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 additional funds will support development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and reinforce planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level.

“Michiganders want to do the right thing when it comes to recycling. EGLE’s focus on growing public understanding of how to recycle correctly comes at a perfect time,” state Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, said in a statement.

EGLE unveiled the campaign in Kalamazoo by introducing the Michigan Recycling Raccoon Squad, a six-member team of recycling champions who will serve as the campaign’s education ambassadors. EGLE-commissioned research shows that learning how to properly recycle is key. 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.
  • 76% of Michiganders are unaware that failing to rinse and empty items before putting them in the recycling bin poses a risk of contaminating everything in the bin.

“On behalf of Kalamazoo residents, we thank 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,” Hopewell said.

EGLE announced a $35,400 grant to the Branch County Conservation District to improve recycling collection capacity in the county through a partnership with Biz Aid LLC materials recovery facility. Schinderle also announced a $16,000 Kalamazoo Nature Center grant to purchase baling equipment for brewing grain bags and cardboard used by 12 breweries in the Kalamazoo region.

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 Michigan.gov/MIEnvironment.

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