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Michiganders recycling more, still trailing rest of the U.S.

Anna Schlutt
Michigan Radio

Michiganders appear to be recycling more than they used to, although the state’s recycling rate still trails the rest of the country.

Just over 19% of Michigan's solid waste is either recycled or composted, according to a recent analysis from the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

That's an improvement from the pre-2019 rate of 14.25%.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark called the uptick significant, adding that it amounts to 500,000 more tons of materials being captured each year instead of being incinerated or sent to landfills. She acknowledged, however, that the state has room to improve.

"Michigan has had historically the lowest recycling rate in the Great Lakes states, which is why really need to increase that rate and why there's been such a focus on it," Clark said.

The national recycling rate is about 32%, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

State officials say they've gotten closer to that benchmark by educating the public and by making it easier to recycle.

EGLE wants at least 30% of Michigan's waste to be recycled by 2025 and at least 40% to be recycled by 2030.

As part of meeting that goal, the department's distributing $97 million total in grants to local governments and recycling businesses for initiatives like adding curbside carts and expanding recycling centers.

That includes $7 million in awards announced Monday targeting Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Grand Rapids, Alpena and the Upper Peninsula.

The announcement Monday comes ahead of Earth Day later this week and the release of the state's plan for carbon neutrality by 2050.

Clark said Monday that increasing access to recycling services has helped the state to increase recycling.

Now, more than 75% of the state's households have access to either curbside recycling bins or drop-off sites in their communities.

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