A state agency is supporting infrastructure upgrades and a public awareness campaign to boost recycling in Michigan.
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy announced more than $1.3 million in grants Monday to help Emmet County improve recycling technology and Kalkaska-based American Waste buy fiber equipment to produce higher-quality mixed paper recycling products.
The grants were announced as part of EGLE's statewide initiative Know It Before You Throw It, which aims to educate Michiganders on how to recycle correctly. The state hopes to double Michigan's recycling rate to 30% by 2025, and eventually to 45% annually. Currently, Michigan's recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and ranks among the lowest nationally at 15%.
“This campaign is a first of its kind for Michigan that offers multiple benefits,” EGLE Assistant Director of the Materials Management Division Elizabeth Browne said in a press release. “Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.”
According to the release, $800,000 of that grant will support the Emmet County Department of Public Works' $1.5 million plan to "upgrade recyclable material processing technology." $474,000 will go to Kalkaska-based American Waste's $1.3 million plan "to produce higher-quality mixed paper recycling products available to Michigan manufacturers that need cleaner materials."
Earlier this year, Michigan Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) testified before a U.S. House subcommittee that "current recycling programs for plastics are inadequate to deal with the growing problem" currently choking waterways, landfills, and the air we breathe, Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported.
The problem is also expedited due to many cities abandoning recycling programs due to higher costs, as well as China accepting fewer recyclables from the United States due to contamination and a slowing economy. One city experiencing this is Westland, which now sends its recyclables to the landfill, according to a report from Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.
"We all know that Michigan can do better at recycling," said EGLE spokesman Scott Dean. "If we can have a better stream of this recycled content, we're going to be more successful as a state, and we're going to create jobs in the process."
An additional part of this campaign is the creation of the Michigan Recycling Raccoon Squad, a "six-member team of recycling champions who will serve as EGLE’s education ambassadors." It's just one part of the program to help residents understand how to best practices for recycling and clear up misconceptions.