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Environment & Climate Change

West Michigan gets grant funds to promote recycling


West Michigan is getting $1.2 million dollars to improve household recycling rates in the region.

State leaders say it’s part of a goal to double Michigan’s recycling rate by 2025.

“Michigan’s current recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and also ranks among the lowest in the nation,” says Elizabeth Browne, director of the Materials Management division at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “To ensure we reach this goal, recycling across Michigan is receiving a major boost in 2021.”

State and local leaders held a virtual press conference Monday to announce the grants, which will be split between local governments and private organizations to increase recycling in the region.

Grand Rapids mayor Rosalynn Bliss called it “the largest push in West Michigan history to promote recycling activity.”

The city of Grand Rapids plans to use its share of the funds to educate residents on plastic bags, which can’t be recycled through the city’s system.

The city launched a program last fall to cut down on the amount of non-recyclable material put in recycling bins. It says the biggest problem it found is people placing their recycling in plastic bags before putting it in the bin.

Jill Martin is with a group called The Recycling Partnership, which helped conduct the recycling study in Grand Rapids.

Martin says many cities struggle with how to recycle plastic bags. So, for now, people should take those bags back to stores that accept them.

“Lots of things are in the works, working with the manufacturers, working with the equipment suppliers, trying to find some solutions,” Martin says. “But this is not unique, in that we highly encourage the recyclable of those plastic bags, but back to the retail establishments.”

The grants announced Monday come from the state’s Renew Michigan Fund, which pays out a total of $15 million annually.  

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