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Introduced and pending legislation would help dramatically increase Michigan’s recycling rate

Russ White
Kerrin O'Brien, Kirk Heinze

Governor Snyder continues to lead efforts to update Michigan solid waste policy and provide funding for initiatives to triple Michigan’s recycling rate.

To underscore and further support those efforts, the 36th Annual Michigan Recycling Coalition and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality State of Recycling conferences kick off May 15 in Kalamazoo.

To discuss key legislative developments in the industry and how they would bolster extant recycling initiatives, Michigan Recycling Coalition executive director Kerrin O’Brien joins Kirk Heinze on MSU Today.

“Right now we recycle about 15 percent of our municipal commercial and residential solid waste stream,” O’Brien says.  “We’re the lowest in the Midwest in our recycling rate. So the governor and our Michigan Recycling Coalition members have been working over the past few years to figure out how we increase that recycling rate because it really does have benefits for both Michigan’s economy and environment. And we want to reap those benefits.”

O’Brien updates Heinze on recycling-related legislation recently introduced in the Michigan Senate.  In addition to contaminated site remediation, state park upgrades and water quality improvement, Senate Bill 943 is aimed at tripling the state’s recycling rate.

“It’s easier to recycle now than it’s ever been,” O’Brien says, and a key factor has been the expansion of single-stream recycling in many areas across Michigan. “The problem is not everyone across the state has access to programs that offer single stream. If we can provide access to those programs all across the state like we do with curbside waste pick up, then we can generate the volume of recyclable materials that actually draws businesses here to Michigan to use it.”

Additional pending legislation would implement key recommendations from the Governor’s Recycling Council and Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel.  These recommendations include a “much needed update of the law that governs solid waste management in Michigan,” O’Brien says.  She believes these changes would help spur recycling initiatives already in place.

As these legislative measures unfold, O’Brien emphasizes the on-going importance of educating citizens about recycling and how it works.

“The most important part of this is really providing access to all of these services across the state to residents and businesses. And until people have the means and the opportunity to recycle, we’re not really providing the services that we need to get the response we want.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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