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Michigan sets record-high recycling rate for third consecutive year

Today’s MI Environment story is courtesy of the Recycling Raccoons.

Girl held by her father places milk carton into recycling cart.

Child places milk carton into recycling cart. 


The recycling rate in the Great Lakes State is at a record high for the third consecutive year, according to a new analysis of data that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced today.

The EGLE research shows Michigan has steadily increased its recycling rate from what was historically the lowest in the Great Lakes region. Michigan’s recycling rate has risen from 14.25% before 2019 to 21% last year and over 23% now. EGLE officials forecast that at its current pace of improvement, Michigan is on track to achieve the state’s goal of a 30% recycling rate by 2029.

“Recycling helps us keep Michigan beautiful,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“When Michiganders recycle cans and bottles, they get money back in their pockets and support Michigan businesses with the materials they need,” Gov. Whitmer said. “We are becoming leaders on recycling and we must continue getting better. My administration is committed to working with EGLE to promote recycling by making it easier and more effective. Let’s work together to protect our natural resources and keep Michigan beautiful.”

EGLE officials attribute the recycling rate surge to the fact that more Michiganders than ever have access to recycling services.

Michiganders recycled more than 330,000 tons of paper and paper products during fiscal year 2023, over 237,000 tons of metals, more than 67,000 tons of glass, and over 58,000 tons of plastics and plastic products. The total amount of residential recycled materials reported for FY 2023 was 703,369 tons — exceeding the record set the year before by more than 82,000 tons. 

This equates to every person in Michigan over a 12-month span recycling 140 pounds of cardboard boxes, milk cartons, soup cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars, food waste and other recyclable materials,  EGLE researchers found.

Additional highlights from the new EGLE data include:

  • The improved recycling performance is helping Michigan advance the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, commissioned by Gov. Whitmer as a broad-based road map to a sustainable, prosperous, healthy, equitable, carbon-neutral Michigan economy by 2050. Carbon neutrality is the global science-based benchmark for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most devastating and costly impacts of climate change.
  • Recycling in Michigan supports 72,500 jobs and contributes more than $17 billion a year to the state’s total economic output, according to an analysis by EGLE’s NextCycle Michigan Initiative.
  • EGLE and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership together have rolled out more than 245,000 new curbside recycling carts in over 30 communities statewide serving a combined population of over 1 million Michiganders, with plans to introduce an additional 88,000 new carts in 2024 in four Michigan communities.
  • 80% of Michiganders report taking action and changing their recycling behavior for the better following EGLE’s 2019 launch of the national award-winning “Know It Before You Throw It” recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoon Squad.

To further expand recycling access in Michigan, EGLE also announced today a combined total of more than $5 million in infrastructure grants that will help support recycling projects on tap in metro Detroit, Genesee County, Lansing, Southwest Oakland County, Isabella County, Van Buren County, Marquette County, Sterling Heights in Macomb County and Madison Heights in Oakland County.  

The largest projects include:

  • A first-of-its-kind EGLE collaboration with the Michigan Grocers Association, including Kroger stores and independent grocers, to boost recycling best practices at metro Detroit locations through an in-store education campaign featuring Recycling Raccoon mascots who will offer tips from promotion inserts on shelves in the canned goods sections.
  • Genesee County is receiving an EGLE grant of $900,000 to build a recycling dropoff facility that will provide access to its approximately 170,000 households as a site to collect paper, cardboard, plastic and items like household hazardous waste and electronics. This facility will be free and open to Genesee County residents weekly. Currently, there is no drop-off recycling center in Genesee County, leading to a large gap in services for the community. By opening a drop-off site, the facility will offer convenience to residents since it will be more accessible and fill a service gap for those who do not have curbside recycling.
  • Marquette County is receiving a $900,000 EGLE grantto expand its processing capacity at its Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Currently, the Upper Peninsula MRF processes about 8,500 tons annually, but Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authorityofficials say additional tipping floor space to accommodate projected increases in future tons delivered. The project will include construction of additional tipping floor space for inbound recyclables from counties across the UP.
  • Isabella County is receiving an EGLE grant of $900,000to expand and upgrade its existing MRF that is currently designed to process 7 tons per hour. The facility needs to be rebuilt because of the changing density and composition of recyclable materials and to enable single-stream collection and processing for the region. The processing capability needs to be increased and a new single-stream sort system will need to be built.  This is the first step in upgrading the entire facility to a single-stream processing capability and quadrupling its total capacity.
  • The City of Sterling Heights is receiving a $527,000 EGLE grant to support its transition from optional subscription-based curbside recycling to universal curbside recycling. Sterling Heights has approximately 41,500 residential collection points. Approximately 8,700 households currently participate in subscription-based curbside recycling collection. The City of Sterling Heights goal is to make recycling easy and convenient for residents, while reducing the volume of waste material going to the landfill and drastically increasing its total recycling rate and volume collected through universal curbside recycling.
  • Van Buren County is receiving a $500,000 EGLE grantthat will enable the Van Buren Conservation Districtto partner with eight of the district’s 11 transfer station drop-off centers to increase recycling services that are available throughout Van Buren County. The project will focus on infrastructure upgrades at each of the eight locations that will increase capacity, efficiency, safety, and services for Van Buren County residents.
  • The City of Madison Heights is receiving a $403,000 EGLE grant to roll out a community-wide Recycling/Trash Cart program that will serve its 30,000 residents and 9,600 households.
  • The City of Lansing is receiving a $300,000 EGLE grantto help fund the purchases of a recycling truck, dumpster containers, fleet management software and to hire a marketing firm to enhance commercial and multi-family recycling. Private-sector recycling services to multi-family sites and small- to medium-sized businesses have recently been reduced or eliminated. The EGLE grant will allow the city to compete for commercial customers who require a container larger than the 96-gallon curb carts currently used. Lansing officials say the project will help fill a market niche and position the city to offer a comprehensive suite of services that will increase tonnage, participation, access, and improve Lansing's diversion rate.
  • The Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County (RRRASOC) was awarded a $140,000 EGLE grant to help buy new robotic sorting equipment that will automate line sorting at its MRF in Southfield. The state-of-the-art technology will address both chronic staffing shortages and the rising cost of temporary labor as well as improve workplace safety and enable staff to more efficiently process residential recyclables. Additionally, the installation of robotics, along with the accompanying analytics, will allow for dramatically improved tracking of materials by type and provide important metrics that can inform and improve MRF operations and future capital planning. The more accurate data-tracking metrics will help inform broader public and private sector discussions about products, product packaging, policies, and laws relevant to materials management, benefitting its member communities of Farmington, Farmington Hills, Milford, Milford Township, Novi, South Lyon, Southfield, Walled Lake and Wixom.

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” said EGLE Director Phil Roos. “Recycling properly saves Michigan taxpayers money by increasing the value of recycled materials, supporting Michigan jobs and improving the health of the environment,” Roos said. “We know Michiganders want to recycle the right way, and through our ‘Know It Before You Throw It’ campaign and recycling infrastructure investments, we are providing them with the tools to do just that.”