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Michigan's recycling rate rising

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michiganders are recycling more bottles, cans and other recyclable materials than ever before.

More than 620,000 tons of materials passed through Michigan’s recycling centers in fiscal year 2022. State officials say that’s about 66,000 tons more than the previous record.

Data from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) show more Michiganders than ever, roughly three in four, have access to recycling services. With expanding access to recycling programs, recycling rates in Michigan have risen from 14.25% prior to 2019 to 21% in 2023.

Still recycling advocates say more education and investment is needed.

Regina Strong is the state’s Environmental Justice Public Advocate. She said nearly $16 million in new state grant money is intended to expand curbside recycling in urban areas.

“(The grants will provide) funding support for recycling infrastructure investments to help advance projects in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Alpena,” said Strong.

Recycling is seen as a critical component of waste management plans across the state of Michigan.

Darwin Baas is Kent County’s public works director. He said the county has a goal to reduce waste heading to landfills by 90% by 2030.

“It will take a tremendous investment in recycling and materials management to be able to meet that goal in the next five to six years,” said Baas.

An official with the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said there are still big challenges ahead as Michigan strives to increase recycling.

Matt Flechter is EGLE’s Recycling Market Development Specialist.

He said expanding commercial recycling and developing new markets for recycled products are among the priorities.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.