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 Recycling Raccoon Gladys Glass poses with Joel Howrani Heeres, Detroit Office of Sustainability director; Jack Schinderle, EGLE materials management division director; EGLE Director Liesl Clark; Cody Marshall, chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership; and David Aiden, senior manager at PepsiCo Beverages after an announcement at the Detroit Department of Public Works Jan. 6.

Recycling Raccoon Gladys Glass poses with Joel Howrani Heeres, Detroit Office of Sustainability director; Jack Schinderle, EGLE materials management division director; EGLE Director Liesl Clark; Cody Marshall, chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership; and David Aiden, senior manager at PepsiCo Beverages after an announcement at the Detroit Department of Public Works Jan. 6.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Education, grants to promote better recycling in Michigan

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published January 10, 2020

METRO DETROIT — Do you toss greasy pizza boxes, Starbucks cups or unrinsed yogurt containers into the curbside recycling bin?

According to the Recycling Raccoons, “This stuff could ruin the entire recycling load!”

An education program from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, or EGLE, is aiming to help Michigan double its current recycling rate of 15% to get to a goal of 30%. A partnership between EGLE and The Recycling Partnership can help local communities spread the word to residents.

The Know It Before You Throw It recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoons that EGLE launched in 2019 is the first statewide effort to better inform people how to recycle, said EGLE Director Liesl Clark at an event held at the Detroit Department of Public Works Jan. 6.

“The (recycling) stream isn’t as effective or efficient if we don’t have the right sort of stream,” Clark said at the event announcing the expansion of recycling in Detroit and the opportunity for communities to take advantage of $1.5 million in grants. “We know the people of Michigan want to do the right thing to protect our environment.”

Research by EGLE found that many residents don’t know that failing to remove all food residue from glass, plastic or metal containers makes them unusable for recycling. Many also don’t know that they can’t recycle things like hoses, rope or hangers because they tangle a load, or that while plastic bags are recyclable, they cannot be accepted in most curbside bins. Instead, they must be taken to a collection site at a local retail store.

Any Michigan municipality, township, county or recreational authority representing a group of communities that currently operates curbside or drop-off recycling can apply for a grant of up to $150,000 to be used for cart tagging, education and communication, social media, signage and other efforts to reduce contamination of the recycling stream.

The goal of the grants and education efforts is to strengthen the state recycling system by providing quality materials to manufacturing facilities that use them to create new products.

Cody Marshall, chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit, said that “it takes stakeholders from all across the supply chain” working together to improve recycling.

If recycling was doubled to 30%, it could create up to 13,000 jobs and have a $300 million economic impact, Clark said.

Michigan residents care about their water, Clark said, and many feel that participating in recycling ties into that.

She said the education program is meant to give residents the tools they need to recycle properly. The education efforts have received bipartisan support from the state Legislature, she added.

“If we’re going to budge that number, we have to start with information,” Clark explained.

While EGLE couldn’t offer specific numbers as to what percentage of recyclables end up in landfills because of contamination, Jill Greenberg, the public information officer for EGLE, explained that there is a perimeter around a contaminated item that has to be removed if, for example, there is still yogurt left in the container when it is tossed in the recycling bin.

And just a small amount of grease left on a pizza box could ruin an entire batch of pulp made during the process of recycling cardboard.

“Anytime we have to remove quality recyclables from a stream because of a yogurt cup, that’s a problem,” Greenberg said.

While promoting the Know It Before You Throw It campaign and the additional grants available to communities, EGLE, the National Recycling Partnership and the PepsiCo Foundation also announced nearly $800,000 in grants to help improve recycling in Detroit’s multifamily and commercial spaces.

The grant will increase residential access to recycling in the city with the purchase of 16,400 curbside recycling carts and 4,000 multifamily containers.

This is the largest recycling expansion ever in the history of the city of Detroit, according to Joel Howrani Heeres, Detroit Office of Sustainability director. This grant is going to take Detroit dramatically forward, he said, adding that they’re hoping to triple the overall diversion rate in the city by 2024.

“Consistent and persistent education about recycling is going to be (key) to reaching our goals,” said Heeres.

To learn more about how to recycle properly and what can be accepted in most curbside recycling containers, visit recyclingraccoons.org.