In the fall of 2015, Michigan Technological University’s Dr. Richelle Winkler’s Environmental Sociology class released a report entitled “Waste and Recycling Programs in Hancock and Houghton, Michigan and Michigan Technological University: Review and Recommendations.” The purpose of the report was to describe and assess waste and recycling programs available to residents of the two cities and the university.

At the time the study was conducted, it was found that Hancock was the only community in Houghton or Keweenaw counties that offered curbside recycling. The report states the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recognized Houghton County as one of the 58 counties in the state that did not have access to convenient recycling opportunities.

The report also stated that recycling rates in Houghton and Hancock were about 5 percent of the waste stream and Michigan Tech recycled about 14 percent, which was below the state’s average of 15 percent, and below the national average of 34 percent.

The report was released the year following the organization of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative Task Force (CCRI), which was based on the Houghton County Planning Commission’s decision to focus attention on creating recycling programs with the intention of submitting a grant proposal that would help to fund a new recycling program in the county. CCRI applied for a grant through the DEQ’s Pollution Prevention Fund, and was awarded $92,000. It was the highest grant awarded in the state.

Carol Ekstrom, CCRI co-chairwoman, said the grants are most likely the result of Michigan’s past low ranking among Great Lakes States in recycling programs.

“Michigan ranked lowest of the Great Lakes states. That doesn’t look good. So, how can we get into this process and do a good job and get up there with Minnesota and the other surrounding states? Plus, we were not only lower than the Great Lakes states, we were one of the lowest in the nation, so I think that motivated him in addition to the jobs and in addition to saving money,” Ekstrom said.

Evan McDonald, CCRI co-chairman, said Gov. Rick Snyder is supportive of recycling in Michigan.

“That grant program was part of a five-year plan,” McDonald said.

McDonald said there was an in-depth study that examined waste, inefficiency, as well as the potential of recycling meshing  with Michigan’s economy.

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