Detroit is receiving nearly $1 million in grants to support the largest expansion of recycling in the city’s history as part of a $2.2 million public-private collaboration to increase recycling education statewide in 2020, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Director Liesl Clark recently announced.
The effort, which is funded by EGLE and The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, with special support from the PepsiCo Foundation, will help build on the success of Michigan’s national award-winning Know It Before You Throw It recycling education campaign that EGLE launched last year, according to a Recycling Partnership news release.
“We are committed to informing and inspiring more people than ever before in Detroit and across Michigan about how to recycle better,” said Clark during a morning news conference at the city’s Department of Public, where she was joined by Detroit Office of Sustainability Director Joel Howrani Heeres, city and nonprofit leaders and state legislators. “Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling is not only the right thing to do for our environment, but it also saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.”
The aim of the Know It Before You Throw It 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 percent by 2025 and ultimately reach 45 percent annually. Michigan’s current 15 percent recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and ranks among the nation’s lowest, according to the city. Meanwhile, EGLE and its campaign partners across the state are promoting awareness of cleaner recycling practices to reduce the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins.
The nearly $800,000 in grants to Detroit include more than $458,000 from EGLE and $325,000 from The Recycling Partnership that will help fund new services offered this year by the city’s Department of Public Works in its multifamily, commercial and public space recycling programs.
“The Recycling Partnership’s grant of $325,000 is its first to Detroit and will help spur a citywide education campaign rolling out in 2020 to increase participation in curbside and multifamily recycling programs,” Howrani Heeres says. “It’s time for each of us to step up our efforts and increase the quantity and quality of recycling in every Detroit home and business.”
The collaboration between Detroit, EGLE and The Recycling Partnership is designed to increase residential access to recycling and collection capacity in Detroit through the purchase of 16,400 curbside recycling carts and nearly 4,000 multifamily containers. Grant funds also will provide additional collection capacity through commercial, public space and municipal recycling containers of various sizes and a collection vehicle.
“Implementing curbside recycling with carts is an exciting initiative that can have huge benefits for the city,” says Cody Marshall, chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership. “The more we recycle, the more we reduce pollution and conserve resources. We are excited to work with the city of Detroit to provide curbside carts to more residents throughout the city.”
Recycling across Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators have increased EGLE’s funding for recycling projects from $2 million in 2018 to $15 million in 2019-2020. The additional funds are being used to support the development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and support planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level, according to the news release.
“As a community, we’re discarding more than 100,000 tons of materials each year that could be recycled instead of being tossed in the trash,” says state Sen. Stephanie Chang. “This grant will help us divert even more waste from our landfills.”
Highlighting the news conference was the Detroit debut of EGLE’s Michigan Recycling Raccoon Squad, a six-member team of recycling champions who serve as EGLE’s education ambassadors. EGLE research shows that education is key for residents to learn how to properly recycle. For example, 50 percent of Michigan residents mistakenly believe they’re allowed to recycle plastic bags in their curbside recycling, which is prohibited by many municipalities statewide. In addition, 75 percent of Michiganders are unaware that failing to rinse and empty items before putting them in the recycling bin poses a risk of contaminating everything in the bin.
In addition to the Detroit grant, EGLE and The Recycling Partnership offer new 2020 grant opportunities across Michigan, totaling $1.5 million to communities seeking to improve material quality in residential curbside and drop-off recycling programs. Municipalities or authorities currently operating curbside or drop-off recycling programs are eligible to apply for up to $150,000 per grant application, which are due Feb. 28.
The Know It Before You Throw It campaign comes at a time when communities across Michigan and the U.S. are struggling with international market shifts for recyclables. At the same time, recyclers nationwide are placing a priority on shipping cleaner materials to their customers with an emphasis that generating more clean recyclables can create jobs and build stronger local economies.
“EGLE’s Know It Before You Throw It campaign is developing the consistency in recycling messaging that Michigan needs to successfully improve the quality of recycling material for end markets in the state of Michigan and beyond,” Marshall says. “Strengthening the state recycling system and reducing trash and other non-recyclables in the recycling helps transform our economy from a linear one to circular, helps reduce the need of using new natural resources and supports local jobs.”