Recycling remains popular with local government leaders in Michigan, who recently set a goal of tripling the state’s current per capita recycling rate.
Yet these leaders often face challenges in implementing their programs, related to costs, inappropriate user recycling practices, and a lack of end markets for their recycled materials, according to a new report from the University of Michigan.
The results appear in the second report on the challenges of recycling based on the autumn 2021 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Surveyled by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at UM’s Ford School of Public Policy. The first came out in March.
Cost is an issue for jurisdictions that have recycling programs (46%) and is also cited by those where recycling services are not available (55%), particularly in urban and mid-west jurisdictions from Michigan. At least 73% of respondents believe additional funding is needed to help them improve or expand their recycling efforts.
The logistics of recycling programs – infrastructure, personnel and access to end markets – concern leaders in the fields, large and small, with or without such programs.
“The results of this survey show that challenges exist at all levels. In addition to costs, improper recycling practices by users can create contamination, and the lack of end markets for recycled materials can lead to bottlenecks,” said Debra Horner, Senior Program Manager for Policy Investigation. Michigan public. “These issues can be intertwined in local government decision-making.”
More than a quarter of local leaders cite lack of public awareness or participation in recycling efforts and staffing for recycling services as additional challenges.
The report, Michigan Local Leaders’ Perspectives on Recycling: Current Challenges and Opportunities for Improvementas a member of Michigan Local Recycling Policy Project, has recommendations to improve the situation. Beyond additional funding, local entities seek additional local or regional partnerships.
In order to introduce recycling, these same resources were also top mentions by those who do not have recycling available to residents today, according to the report.
Recycling efforts throughout Michigan have been the focus of significant state government activity and investment. In 2018, lawmakers created the Renew Michigan Fund to make resources available to improve recycling in Michigan.
Since then, the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has partnered with state, local and national organizations to create programs that improve local recycling infrastructure, improve awareness and public participation and develop end markets for recycling.
Higher revenue from the sale of recycled materials, publicly funded outreach and education efforts aimed at residents and/or businesses, and technical assistance (such as one-on-one funding advice, partnerships , contracts, etc.) are also resources that local leaders believe could help expand or improve current recycling services.
“In the context of operational challenges, local leaders expressed optimism about the impact additional resources could have on the likelihood of expanding or introducing recycling services in their communities. And they say additional technical assistance would also have an impact,” said Natalie Fitzpatrick, project manager at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.
The survey was funded in part by EGLE.