EGLE, Foodservice Packaging Institute award more than $450K in recycling grants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 21, 2019
Jill A. Greenberg, EGLE Public Information Officer, GreenbergJ@Michigan.gov, 517-897-4965

Funds support Kent County Department of Public Works, Grand Rapids Public Schools in state’s Know It Before You Throw It education campaign

GRAND RAPIDS - A record-setting total of more than $450,000 in combined grants was announced today to improve recycling infrastructure and education in Kent County and in Grand Rapids Public Schools as part of the Grand Rapids launch of Michigan’s Know It Before You Throw It recycling education campaign.

"We are committed to informing and inspiring more people than ever before in Grand Rapids and across Michigan about how to recycle better," said Jack Schinderle, Materials Management Division director at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

“Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling is not only the right thing to do for our environment, but it also saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs,” Schinderle said during a morning news conference at the Kent County Recycling and Education Center.

In Kent County, officials have set a goal of reducing the amount of local waste that goes to landfills by 20% in 2020 and reaching 90% by 2030. Reaching that goal will require expanding recycling opportunities and investing in new technology that can segregate and divert waste from landfills.

EGLE announced two grants that will help Kent County advance toward its objectives:

  • Nearly $258,000 – EGLE’s largest-ever recycling grant award to GRPS – to improve recycling access, education and infrastructure in all GRPS classrooms, cafeterias and administrative buildings. The project will impact 47 buildings, 16,656 students and approximately 3,000 staff. It will provide GRPS with 1,279 recycling receptacles and 112 dollies to address janitorial needs as part of the district’s push for a 400% increase in collection capacity.
  • More than $175,000 to help Kent County purchase new equipment as part of the Department of Public Works’s strategy to segregate and annually divert up to 16,000 tons of construction and demolition waste from West Michigan landfills at its Transfer Station in Rockford. It's the largest EGLE recycling grant to Kent County's DPW this century.

"EGLE's recycling grant is a tremendous step forward in helping Grand Rapids Public Schools implement thoughtful recycling programs that instill values and individual responsibility in our students while also delivering infrastructure support to help our educators and custodians in promoting and expanding recycling," said GRPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Ron Gorman.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state legislators want 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.

Estimates show 75% of the approximately 2.1 million cubic yards of trash that Kent County annually discards in landfills – a volume that would fill the University of Michigan's Big House football stadium twice over - could be diverted and repurposed through improved recycling, composting and waste conversion, according to a 2016 report by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. 

"Our vision for increasing participation in curbside recycling and implementing other landfill-diversion initiatives in Kent County is ambitious but attainable," Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter said.

"As a community, we’re discarding more than 100,000 tons of recyclable and construction materials each year," Bolter said. "This grant will help us divert even more waste from our landfills."

Recycling across Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators have increased EGLE"s funding for recycling projects from $2 million last year to $15 million in 2019. The additional funds are being used to support development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and support planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level.

Among the West Michigan legislators who joined today’s news conference were state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, state Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, R‑Grand Rapids.

"EGLE's Know It Before You Throw It campaign is developing the consistency in recycling messaging that we need to successfully reduce the likelihood of recycling the wrong items," said Hood, a former director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

"An aggressive, multi-pronged strategy is essential to achieve a statewide recycling rate of 30%, and my legislative colleagues and I are confident EGLE's campaign is moving Michigan in the right direction," Brinks said.

In addition to the EGLE grants, the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) has selected Kent County as the first Michigan community and sixth nationally to receive an $18,000 grant to increase awareness of recycling clean and empty cups and takeout food containers. FPI is the trade association for the foodservice packaging industry, and its members in Michigan employ nearly 4,000 people with a total payroll of over $250 million.

"Keeping valuable materials in circulation and out of landfills ensures that businesses get what they need to produce their products," Afendoulis said. The FPI grant and EGLE’s campaign are good for business and will help employers create more prosperous local economies.";

Other municipalities and partners to receive similar FPI grants are Washington, D.C.; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Denver; and Millennium Recycling in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

"A combined 945,000 households in these six communities, including Kent County, can recycle a wide range of packaging like plastic cups and containers, clean pizza boxes, and paper bags in their curbside carts. The FPI grant will help promote recycling these items to keep them out of the trash," said FPI President Natha Dempsey.

The aim of EGLE's first-of-its-kind statewide push with Know It Before You Throw It is to better inform Michiganders on what can - and cannot - be recycled and how to recycle correctly. EGLE's goal is to grow awareness of cleaner recycling practices to reduce the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins.

A highlight of EGLE's campaign visit in Grand Rapids was introduction of 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 to proper recycling. 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.

The Know It Before You Throw It campaign comes at a time when communities across Michigan and the U.S. are struggling with international market shifts for recyclables. At the same time, recyclers nationwide are placing a priority on shipping cleaner materials to their customers with an emphasis that generating more clean recyclables can create jobs and build stronger local economies.

The recycling industry in Michigan generates nearly 36,000 jobs statewide and an annual 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 at least $300 million annually, according to findings from the Expanding Recycling in Michigan Report prepared for the Michigan Recycling Partnership.

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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