Madison Heights City Council promotes reusable plastics

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 26, 2019

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Earth Day was April 22, but we’re still living on this bright blue marble spinning through space. So why not continue to be good stewards of the world we call home?

That’s what the Madison Heights City Council asked of residents during its regular meeting April 22, when the seven members unanimously passed a resolution in honor of Earth Day.

The resolution encourages the reduced use of single-use plastics every day, noting that they constitute much of the litter and pollutants in the city, posing an environmental hazard to the health, safety and welfare of its residents.

The resolution states that 106 million metric tons, or about 45 percent of the world’s plastics set for recycling, don’t actually return to the U.S., but have been exported to China since reporting to the United Nations Comtrade Database began in 1992; and in 2017, China passed the National Sword policy that bans plastic waste from being imported, which went into effect in January 2018 — a measure that will displace an estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste by 2030. And with the U.S. alone sending 26.7 million tons of plastic out of the country for recycling from 1988 to 2017, there’s a great deal of the stuff floating around out there.

Rather than risk more of it being displaced and spoiling the environment, the city wants its residents to reduce their use of single-use plastics altogether, by finding compostable or reusable alternatives to plastic bags, utensils, dinnerware, bottles and containers.

“Many people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem, but there are several simple things we can all start doing,” said Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights.

To coincide with the resolution, the Arts and Culture Committee is selling reusable water bottles at $12 for one bottle or $20 for two. The bottles are available for purchase at Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road.

“At every council meeting, we would have single-use plastic water bottles everywhere. It was a waste both environmentally, as well as financially. I had always brought my own reusable bottle, so when that inspired a discussion with the arts board members on this topic, it quickly involved creating a bottle for sale with the same art we utilized on the T-shirt,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss. “At the same time, the new revamped Environmental Citizens Committee was creating educational content on recycling. So it seemed like a natural partnership for us to work together to get the word out and craft a meaningful resolution that removes those bottles from City Hall.”

Roslyn Grafstein, another member of the City Council, said she observed the litter problem recently when she was helping volunteers clean up around the Active Adult Center on John R Road.

“Most of the garbage I found was really disposable plastic that could have been recycled or, better yet, replaced by (reusable) products,” Grafstein said.

Other recent cleanup initiatives in the city included efforts at the Red Oaks Nature Center spearheaded by Oakland County Commissioner Gary McGillivray and a cleanup along John R Road led by resident Emily Rohrbach, which were both scheduled to occur April 27, after press time.

This summer, the GFWC Madison Heights Women’s Club will lead four nights of “Mad Mondays” where club members will spend the evenings cleaning up different locations identified by the city. Cleanup will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 22 and 29, and Aug. 5 and 12. The Madison Heights Men’s Club is assisting them. The Men’s Club also recently cleaned up the area under the Interstate 696 bridge at 10 Mile Road and Stephenson Highway.

“We all live here and we can all do our part. It is as simple as taking an extra bag when you go for a walk and just picking up any litter you find,” Grafstein said. “Next summer, I would like to officially put Mad Mondays and weekend cleanups on the city calendar, but nothing is stopping our residents from going out on their own and just cleaning up.”

In addition, the Department of Public Services is selling memorial trees via an application form at the city’s website, madison-heights.org. In addition to honoring the memory of loved ones, the trees will help green the city’s landscape and restore its canopy.

“Pride in our community and a desire to make a difference are key tenets of we as a city, so it doesn’t surprise me that residents are looking to get involved,” Bliss said. “It’s a sad truth that whether intentionally or unintentionally, littering happens, and these events — both private and city-sponsored — help to remove that trash before it accumulates.”    

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