Play catch up on recycling

by Michael Sweet

April 22 is Earth Day, a day to reflect on all of our recycling efforts.  

We take our carbonated beverage containers back to the store. We put our paper in the proper bins at work, and we even put our plastic containers in the recycling bins whenever we see one. But how do Michiganders’ recycling efforts actually compare to the rest of the country?

In former Governor Rick Snyder’s 2018 State of the State address he said: 

“… recycling. This has probably been one of the most disappointing initiatives I’ve had in my time as governor. We’ve gotten complacent. We thought we did the deposit law so were doing great on recycling. We’re behind. We’re half the national average on recycling. We have to do more. It’s for our own good, and it’s for the well-being of our society and our world.”

He was right.  According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michigan’s residential recycling rate in 2018 was 15 percent, dead last in the Great Lakes region, well below the national average of 25.8 percent.

So why are Michigan’s recycling rates so low?

One issue is that throwing items into the trash is cheap, monetarily speaking. In fact, Michigan’s landfill costs are so low it is cheaper for Canada and other states to ship their trash to Michigan landfills. In 2018 approximately 24 percent of the waste which went into Michigan’s landfill came from out of state. 

Recycling is expensive. States and companies have to purchase designated collection equipment, open recycling sites, and pay people to sort the recyclables. It is much cheaper to dump everything into a big hole and cover it with dirt. Finally, our state lacks convenient access to recycling drop-off locations.  Only 25 of Michigan’s 83 counties have access to convenient recycling locations. 

So what can we do to improve these numbers? First off, know why we should recycle. For instance, did you know that the estimated market value of the recyclables that end up in Michigan landfills is $435 million every year? That recycling one ton of paper can save 7,000 gallons of water? That thousands of marine animals are killed every year and 22 million pounds of plastic end up in Michigan waterways due to improper disposal of plastic goods?  

Not a good thing for the Great Lakes State. 

If those reasons are insufficient, remember that the amount of land available is finite. Eventually,  landfills will reach capacity and there will be a need to create new ones.  Where will they be placed?  Maybe downwind of your house, maybe right next door. Now is the time to act to prevent the need for additional refuse collection space.  

To help control recycling costs, we need to make sure we recycle correctly. Know what is acceptable to put in our recycling bins, what items need sorting, what are the rules for collections at drop-off locations? The more non-recyclable materials we put into the collection locations, the more labor is needed to re-sort the items. Keep items like garden hoses, lights, styrofoam take home containers, and batteries out of the bins. Places will recycle them, but we need to confirm first. 

Also, we should clean our items thoroughly. The cleaner the recycled item, the more valuable when  resold.  Finally, remember that there are people hand sorting the recyclables. Never put items like needles, razors, or knives in the recycling. Someone can be seriously injured by these items. Dispose of them properly, and not in the recycling.  

Finally, for those who wish to recycle but are unable to find a way to do so, talk to the local politician or contact the trash collection service. Demand a recycling program. Talk to our neighbors. Find out if they are recycling and where they are taking their recycling. If they are not, encourage them to start.  Speak to co-workers and expand recycling at in the workplace. When people take action, government and companies take action.

Together we can make a difference not for just this Earth Day, but for all the days that we are on this Earth

Status of recycling within SCN’s circulation area:

Bunker Hill Township no longer provides recycling. The provider, Titan’s Trash, canceled because they no longer have a place to take recyclables. The township is hoping to provide recycling in the future.

Henrietta Township provides recycling on Saturdays at their transfer station from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The transfer station is located on M-106 and Wetmore Drive. The township operates the facility and pays Modern Waste Systems to provide the trucking. Household trash can be dropped off at the facility for a fee.

Stockbridge Township provides recycling behind the SAESA building located at M-106 and M-52. The township recently contracted Granger to provide this service to their township residents.

Stockbridge Village provides recycling as part of their curbside trash pickup service. Residents of the village pay $35.28 per quarter for this service. Granger is the company under contract to provide this service.

Waterloo Township does not provide recycling at this time. This is a service they may provide in the future.

White Oak Township no longer provides recycling. The provider, Titan’s Trash, canceled because they no longer have a place to take recyclables. The township is hoping to provide recycling in the future.

Unadilla Township no longer provides recycling. The provider, Titan’s Trash, canceled because they no longer have a place to take recyclables. The township is hoping to provide recycling in the future.

Sources:

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/2018_Michigan_State_of_the_State_Transcript_612009_7.pdf

https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-environment-watch/michigan-was-once-leader-recycling-today-its-pits

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/Michigan_Recycling_FAQs_453439_7.pdf

https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials

https://greatlakes.org/great-lakes-plastic-pollution-fighting-for-plastic-free-water/

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2019/02/19/michigan-recycling-market-weathers-global-flux-how-to-help/2883514002/

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-wmrpd-sws-2018_Part_175_Annual_Report_FINAL_645622_7.pdf

https://www.record-eagle.com/state/michigan-s-trash-imports-surge-as-low-fees-discourage-recycling/article_e2cc8c52-1724-5d09-9415-b0028d8e93af.html

https://recyclingfacts.org/

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