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Michigan Materials Marketplace helps businesses reuse, recycle as state moves toward circular economy

Screen shot of Michigan Materials Marketplace websiteMichigan businesses are working together in unprecedented ways to keep materials out of landfills and create value for the region's fast-growing circular economy, one where all products and by-products recirculate back into the economy.

Led by the US Business Council for Sustainable Development and supported by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Michigan Materials Marketplace is helping connect the dots between manufacturers, recyclers and entrepreneurs to develop and expand new reuse and recycling market opportunities. The program — free to join — has been matching material supplies and demands across the state since 2018.

Major Michigan manufacturers including Ford, General Motors, Steelcase, and more are using the Materials Marketplace to find solutions for challenging waste and by-product materials and to source recycled feedstocks. Small and mid-sized companies like Public Thread in Grand Rapids are also embracing the program, adding a wide variety of unique recycled products and services to the mix.

Recycling companies are of course active on the Materials Marketplace too, using the online tool to identify new customers and new buyers for collected or processed material. These companies also leverage the program to identify and test the appetite for specific materials and end-markets before making sometimes costly service decisions or infrastructure investments.

As more business activity moved virtual in 2020, the Michigan Materials Marketplace and supporting organizations launched the Great Lakes Circular Materials Roundtable Series to leverage its network to create sustainable supply chain connections for the region's most abundant materials - all remotely. The series features presentations and facilitated conversations on existing and emerging end-markets, and material supplies that could be redirected to processors and new applications. Follow-up networking sessions are also organized to help participants continue the conversation post-event. To-date it has created lasting connections and results for managing Michigan's recurring supplies of wood pallets, textiles, film plastics, post-industrial organics, and more. Recaps and presentations are published online as a resource for local solutions and material market insights.

With the addition of these facilitated events, the Michigan Materials Marketplace has helped several businesses achieve success this year:

  • A refining facility is sourcing copper containing by-products and materials to produce high-quality recycled copper.
  • A furniture manufacturer and plastics processor are working on a closed-loop system to re-integrate manufacturing scrap as feedstock.
  • An automotive manufacturer has found new uses for non-recurring waste materials and is pursuing connections to further reduce waste-to-landfill at their facilities.

With even more success stories in the pipeline, new listings for wanted and available materials are being created every day on the Materials Marketplace and are catalyzing the exploration of innovative material use cases and business opportunities. Materials available now on the Marketplace include hundreds of tons of high-quality Aspen sawdust, and thousands of pounds of a waste fiberglass trimming by-product; and on the flipside, companies on the Marketplace are seeking baled #3-#7 plastics, copper containing by-products, nylon (PA6), and a variety of other materials.

The Michigan Materials Marketplace is free to join, and there is no cost to list and search for materials. To join, simply go to its website and click "get involved." All Great Lakes Circular Materials Roundtable events are open to businesses and organizations in the region, and registration for 2021 dates will soon be available on the program website.

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