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Law change aims to increase recycling rates in Michigan

A loader preparing trash for sorting to retrieve recyclable material. (File photo)
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A loader preparing trash for sorting to retrieve recyclable material. (File photo)

New recycling plans are coming to Michigan counties. The new plans are part of an eight-bill package that was approved by Michigan lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer late last year. The new law promotes recycling rather than continued landfill growth.

Michigan's recycling rates are rising: but at about 19%, they still lag behind the national average of 32%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) said that the new plans could more than double recycling rates in Michigan by 2030: "Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature are committed to raising Michigan's recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and 45% by 2030, exceeding the national recycling rate of 32%."

Liz Browne is the Director of the Materials Management Division at EGLE. She said that while the goals of the legislation are big, the changes needed to reach them can be small.

"We have already been giving out grant funding allowing communities to transition from the small little tub that you put your recycling in to the larger wheeled cart, because we know that if people have an easier mechanism to recycle from their home, they will do it more readily," Browne said.

EGLE also cites "new technology, robotics with artificial intelligence, fleet maintenance improvements, equipment upgrades, and hiring new employees" as changes to the state's recycling infrastructure that will allow the new plans to be implemented.

Browne said that diverting materials away from landfills—and avoiding the construction of more landfills—has numerous benefits.

"You don't have to worry about siting landfills in areas where people don't want them or people having to live near a landfill they don't want. You get better economic returns by re-using these materials, and you significantly lessen the environmental impact as well," she said.

Beth Weiler is a newsroom intern covering the environment.
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