Michigan governor wants to double recycling rates


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) wants his state to recycle more. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

Michigan is good at many things, like building automobiles, growing cherries and blueberries and making cereal. What it’s not terribly good at, according to Gov. Rick Snyder (R), is recycling.

Michiganders recycle only about 15 percent of residential household waste, less than half the national average. Snyder on Monday released a proposal to double that figure, to 30 percent, within just the next two years.

“[W]hen it comes to recycling, we must do better. Michigan trails other Great Lakes states and much of the nation in residential recycling,” Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder’s 15-point plan includes an outreach and education component, aimed at getting residents into the habit of putting their rubbish in the proper bins. The state will provide incentives to businesses and encourage regional partnerships to get more corporations disposing of waste responsibly. And the state will offer tax-exempt bonds to build new waste utilization facilities, all while increasing data collection and analysis to track progress.

A big challenge is making sure residents have access to recycling facilities in the first place. Just 25 of Michigan’s 83 counties provide convenient access to residential recycling. Those without reliable access include Michigan’s five largest counties — Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent and Genesee.

All told, the initiative will cost Michigan $1.5 million over the next two years: $1 million appropriated through Snyder’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget and another $500,000 in pollution prevention grants awarded by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan won’t touch Michigan’s bottle deposit law, a popular and efficient way to encourage recycling. Michigan is one of 10 states that requires consumers to pay an extra fee — 5 cents in most states, 10 cents in Michigan — when they purchase a drink in a can or bottle. In 2012, the program collected $370 million in fees; consumers returned 94.7 percent of bottles they purchased.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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