FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 30, 2020
Jill A. Greenberg, EGLE Spokesperson, GreenbergJ@Michigan.gov, 517-897-4965
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced a combined total of more than $1.58 million in infrastructure grants awarded to six public agency and nonprofit recipients that will support the largest expansion of recycling in Washtenaw County history.
“Recycling infrastructure grants are a critical component of EGLE’s support for recycling growth in Michigan,” said Elizabeth Browne, assistant director of the Materials Management Division at EGLE.
“The objective of the EGLE recycling infrastructure grants is to increase processing and collection capacity in Washtenaw County, improve access to community recycling programs and grow participation among the constituencies they serve by assisting with the purchase of equipment and other items,” Browne said.
“In addition, several of these projects will have a direct impact on reducing the spread of infectious disease through greater use of automation, which aligns with Michigan’s efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
The Washtenaw County grants are part of EGLE’s strategy to support recycling infrastructure, improve the quality of recyclable materials and promote market development using the Renew Michigan Fund, which was created in 2019 to boost the state’s recycling efforts.
EGLE’s Washtenaw County grant recipients are:
EGLE’s support of new research, education and recycling activities planned for Washtenaw County come as Michigan and states across the United States are seeing significant increases in curbside recycling due to more Americans sheltering and working from home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
EGLE-commissioned research surveys show Michigan residents view recycling as an essential public service. And during a time of social distancing where many nonessential employers are closed and commercial recycling is near an all-time low, producers see residential recycling programs as a critical supplier of manufacturing feedstock so more companies can make their products from recycled content instead of new materials.
“Common mistakes are making their way into the recycling bins and causing problems within the recycling system,” said Recycle Ann Arbor CEO Bryan Ukena.
“Recycling contamination causes extra wear on the equipment, increases the amount of material ending up in the landfill and degrades the quality of recyclable material to be sold to end markets,” Ukena said. “Recycle Ann Arbor is committed to helping the community recycle more and better. More recycling and better recycling produces better results.”
Another goal of EGLE’s funding support in Washtenaw County is to minimize contaminated recyclables from going into bins by providing educational messaging across all municipalities. Recycling contamination occurs when materials not accepted for recycling are put in recycling bins, such as plastic bags or items with food residue. An estimated 30% to 35% of the materials currently recycled by residents in WRRMA’s service territory are contaminated. WRRMA plans to kick off its program in spring 2021 with a target of reducing recycling contamination by 40% by fall 2021.
“WRRMA’s strategy is aimed at reducing costs by increasing the quality of our recycling stream and making strides toward a stronger recycling system in Washtenaw County,” said Washtenaw County Public Works Director Theo Eggermont.
EGLE’s grants to Washtenaw County will help build on the success of Michigan’s national award-winning Know It Before You Throw It recycling education campaign that EGLE launched in 2019. The aim of the first-of-its-kind statewide push is to better inform Michiganders on what can – and cannot – be recycled and how to recycle correctly.
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.
Tripling the rate to 45% 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.
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