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A teenage girl in a striped shirt looks down at her arm as a doctor in protective gear administers a vaccine
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Today on Stateside, what Michigan parents should know about the news that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to kids as young as 12 years old. And speaking of vaccinations, the state hit its first benchmark in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “MI Vacc to Normal” plan with 55% of Michiganders now having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Plus, why recycling in Michigan isn’t as green as it could be.

RaccoonsRecycling.org

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is launching a new initiative to increase recycling in Michigan. It’s called NextCycle Michigan.

EGLE, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, cities, and individual companies have agreed to collaborate on the effort.

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.”

Note: An audio version of this story aired on NPR's Planet Money. Listen to the episode here.

Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

WILL CALLAN / MICHIGAN RADIO

Ann Arbor City Council members have voted unanimously to award the non-profit Recycle Ann Arbor a 10-year contract to run the city’s materials recovery facility.

The facility hasn’t sorted recyclables since 2016, when it was shut down for unsafe working conditions. 

 

Recycle Ann Arbor will raise and invest more than $5 million to upgrade the facility with high-tech machines like optic sorters and ballistic separators, says Bryan Ukena, the company’s CEO. 

 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan residents are sending more trash to the state’s landfills than they have since before the Great Recession.

Last year Michigan homes and businesses sent more than 43 million cubic yards of trash to the landfills.

Today on Stateside, what the story about a state senator's alleged sexual harassment of a female journalist says about Capitol culture. Plus, a look at where Michigan's recyclables are going, two years after China stopped accepting U.S. waste.

The U.S. used to send a lot of its plastic waste to China to get recycled. But last year, China put the kibosh on imports of the world's waste. The policy, called National Sword, freaked out people in the U.S. — a huge market for plastic waste had just dried up.

Where was it all going to go now?

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.

Replacing Plastic: Can Bacteria Help Us Break The Habit?

Jun 17, 2019

If civilizations are remembered for what they leave behind, our time might be labeled the Plastic Age. Plastic can endure for centuries. It's everywhere, even in our clothes, from polyester leisure suits to fleece jackets.

A Silicon Valley startup is trying to get the plastic out of clothing and put something else in: biopolymers.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

Clevergrrl / FLICKR - HTTP://BIT.LY/1XMSZCG

When Donner and Blitzen deliver their holiday packages, they don't leave much advice about what to do with the trash.

And Americans produce lots of extra trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's day.

That's according to to Lauren Westerman, resource recovery specialist with the Kent County Department of Public Works. 

Landfill.
flickr user Redwin Law / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is offering communities grants to help start recycling programs. The total amount approved for the grants is $500,000.

Bryan Weinert of Recycle Ann Arbor says the money won't go far, but it's at least a start to improving the state's "embarrassingly" low recycling rate.  

The national average for recycling is about 30%.  Michigan is at about 15%.

Kara Holsopple

The global market for recycling has changed dramatically over the last year, and it’s already trickling down to what happens at the curb.

recycle cone
Ben Simo / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

From Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids, communities all across Michigan are paying more to recycle their trash. 

That’s thanks to a change in China’s stance on accepting recycling products from the U.S.  

Dar Baas, the director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, joined Stateside to talk to us about the financial impact this Chinese policy is having on operations there.

Takeout containers
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

There's a scene in the 1967 film The Graduate where a well-meaning friend of the family pulls Dustin Hoffman's character aside at his graduation party, and gives him this advice:

"There's a great future in plastics - think about it, will you think about it? ... That's a deal."

But back then, the downside of plastic wasn't apparent.

genusee.com

There is a lot of concern over what to do with the plastic water bottles we use. 

Flint is one community that is grappling with this question in a big way.

In the wake of the water crisis, the city has had to rely heavily on water bottles for safe drinking water.

Ali Rose Van Overbeke, a metro Detroit native, founded Genusee to turn that waste into eyeglasses, manufactured by Flint residents. 

grocery cart of plastic bottles
Rex Roof / Creative Commons

Michigan’s 10-cent bottle deposit law has been on the books since 1976. It covers can and bottles for carbonated beverages – soda, pop, beer, seltzer and so on.

Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder was in Dundee today talking about expanding recycling, which got us thinking: do you know what you can and can’t recycle in Michigan?

Renew Michigan’s Environment proposal Infographic
Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Office of Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder wants to increase the cost of dumping waste in the state’s landfills. This is part of the governor’s proposal to improve Michigan’s environment.

Snyder proposal calls for a hike in the current landfill dumping fee from 36 cents per ton to $4.75 per ton.

“One of the things that Michigan is a great value at, that we’re one of the most attractive places in the world, is to dump your trash,” Snyder said during a speech announcing the plan. “That’s not a contest I’m aspiring to win.”

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County is closing its recycling facility temporarily. But this is a good thing in the long run, according to the Department of Public Works.

Kristen Weiland, marketing and communications director with the Kent County Department of Public Works, says the facility is shutting down so the county can install new equipment.

Recyclign bin in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Kent County Department of Public Works met with community members Tuesday night to gather feedback on sustainable waste management plans.

Currently, the county recycles only 10% of its waste. The rest ends up in landfills.

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County wants community input on a plan to recycle more of its waste.

The Kent County Department of Public Works says 75 percent of its waste can be recycled into usable products, but it currently only recycles about 10 percent.

The department wants to build a business park that would help reduce the amount of waste in county facilities while helping emerging businesses save money on raw materials.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of used, clear plastic water bottles collected in Flint will be worn by runway models in New York next spring.

Recycling water bottles has been an issue in Flint since the city’s lead tainted drinking water crisis.

Conceptual artist Mel Chin and a fashion designer, Detroit native Tracy Reese, are working with the Queens Museum in New York City to recycle water bottles from Flint into fabric for raincoats, swimwear and other clothes.

“The thing is, if you don’t....do something, we’re just talking,” says Chin. 

Ben Simo / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he will spend the summer months developing a recycling strategy to be rolled out in the fall.

“We need to do better in recycling,” he said. That is an area where I wanted to see more improvement, and we haven’t kept up the pace that we have in many other areas.” 

He says Michigan’s residential recycling rate of 15 percent is among the lowest in the country, and the state has not met a goal of doubling that.

Landfill.
flickr user Redwin Law / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Two groups established by Gov. Rick Snyder have produced a list of suggestions for stepping up solid waste recycling in Michigan.

The proposals are in reports issued by the Governor's Recycling Council and the Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel.

Only about 15 percent of Michigan's solid waste is recycled, a rate far below the national average.

Rex Roof / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan man who authorities say was trying to return more than 10,000 cans and bottles for 10 cents apiece is avoiding jail time.

The Livingston Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports Brian Edward Everidge of Columbiaville was ordered Thursday to pay $1,230 in fines and court costs following his earlier guilty plea to one count of beverage return of nonrefundable bottles.

Perpetual Plastic Project

Plastic pollution is all around us, from grocery bags that aren’t properly recycled to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. An industrial designer from the Netherlands is trying to get people to think differently about plastic’s long life cycle.

People drop off recycling at Recycle Here! in Detroit.
screen grab from YouTube / Model D TV

A couple weeks ago, Jay from Detroit submitted this question to our MI Curious project:

Why doesn’t Detroit have a public recycling system?

There is a recycling program in the city, so I reached out to Jay in order to understand what, exactly, he was asking. (Jay has asked to be referred to only by his first name, for reasons that will become clear.)

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