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Genesee County launching 'hyperlocal' public education campaign in major push to improve community recycling efforts


September 30, 2021


Partnership with EGLE supports local environmental and sustainability goals, with aim of reducing amount of contaminated materials going into recycling bins

Genesee County is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to introduce a first-of-its-kind communitywide "hyperlocal" public education campaign aimed at improving recycling and promoting best practices to reduce contaminated materials from going into recycling bins.

EGLE and Genesee County recently kicked off a recycling education campaign featuring EGLE's Recycling Raccoon Squad, a six-member team of recycling champions who serve as the state agency's education ambassadors. The campaign includes messaging that highlights best practices on what to put, and what not to put, into recycling bins with an emphasis on Genesee County municipalities' respective rules for recycling.

"Genesee County is committed to making positive environmental impacts through our recycling programs, so we are very excited for this awesome partnership with EGLE," said Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission (GCMPC) Director Derek Bradshaw. "By informing our residents how to properly recycle with an engaging educational campaign, we can decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills, which will help to sustain our community's environment for future generations".

Genesee County's hyperlocal focus will specifically inform residents they should never put plastic bags into recycling bins and that they should place recyclables loosely in bins, not deposit them into grocery bags. Plastic bags should only go into garbage bins or be returned to stores that accept them for proper recycling. Those are the two most common miscues by residents in Genesee County when they recycle, officials say.

There are five residential curbside recycling haulers in Genesee County providing services to municipalities - Emterra Environmental, Republic Services, Waste Management, Green for Life Environmental, and Priority Waste. According to a recycling report developed by GCMPC, data some municipalities, including Mundy Township and the city of Linden, display very high recycling participation rates, at 83 percent and 90 percent, respectively. Overall, the recycling participation rate for Genesee County is approximately 51 percent.

At the same time, GCMPC's recycling report concluded that while many communities are doing well at providing residents with accessible recycling options, there still are some communities that could take steps to enhance recycling participation in Genesee County.

"We know Genesee County residents want to recycle the right way. Through this hyperlocal education campaign, we are providing our county's residents with customized, immediate feedback to do just that," said Bradshaw.

EGLE aims to grow awareness of recycling best practices in an effort to reduce the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins. The state also wants to increase Michigan's recycling rate to 30 percent by 2025 and ultimately reach 45 percent annually. Michigan's current 18 percent recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region.

Recycling properly not only saves landfill space and improves the health of the environment, but it also supports jobs and helps spur local economies. The economic impact of tripling the recycling rate to 45 percent would support 138,000 new jobs in Michigan's recycling industry, providing $9 billion in annual labor income and $33.8 billion in economic output according to a study commissioned by EGLE. By turning waste materials into new products made in Michigan, EGLE and its partners plan to achieve the state's goals of saving resources, protecting the climate, and contributing to the prosperity of Michigan-based companies.

"At EGLE, we know that recycling is one of the most important things you can do every day to make a positive difference for our environment and climate," said Elizabeth M. Browne, director of EGLE's Materials Management Division. "But what many Michiganders often don't realize is that recycling has become an essential tool in supporting our state's local economies, businesses big and small, and major employers in the manufacturing sector."

Genesee County is among ten Michigan communities representing approximately 640,000 households that EGLE has partnered with to improve recycling materials. The others are:  the cities of Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Bay City; Marquette and Emmet County; Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority;  and Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County.

The campaign in Genesee County will continue through the fall, and messages will appear on social media advertising, billboards and local television commercials. EGLE provides all funding for the campaign, with no use of local taxpayer resources.

The emphasis on proper recycling also will help support climate objectives set in Governor Gretchen Whitmer's MI Healthy Climate Plan, which has a goal of achieving economywide carbon neutrality by 2050.

"We are eager to engage with Genesee County on this hyperlocal public education campaign, because now, more than ever, Michigan residents view recycling as an essential public service," Browne said. "That is why it's important to communicate with the public, so we can improve the quality of materials being recycled that can then be transformed into raw materials. By recycling smarter, we create a healthier and less wasteful planet, and ultimately this supports jobs and promotes stronger, healthier communities."

The EGLE partnership with Genesee County aligns with EGLE's national award-winning "Know It Before You Throw It" recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoon Squad. The campaign promotes best practices and emphasizes that recycling materials saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources, and translates into local jobs.

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