Michigan has launched a $2 million educational campaign aimed at boosting the state’s low recycling rate and cutting the amount of materials improperly left in curbside bins. The “Know It Before You Throw” campaign includes TV ads, billboards and a website . The funding comes from $15 million in new, permanent annual recycling funding that was approved by lawmakers and former Gov. Rick Snyder late last year. The state had been spending $1 million or $2 million a year. The goal is to double the recycling rate to 30% by 2025.

Just 15% of solid waste is recycled in the state, which is lowest in the Great Lakes Region despite Michigan’s 10-cent bottle-return law. Officials said a contributing factor is people mistakenly trying to recycle plastic bags and not rinsing their plastics, glass and metal — leading to contamination that makes materials unrecyclable and increases costs for local governments.

Jack Schinderle, materials management division director at the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said half of residents believe they can recycle plastic bags curbside, but most municipalities prohibit it. Three-quarters are unaware that not rinsing and drying items puts them at risk of contaminating everything else in bins. “This is the first-ever statewide effort to inform and instill confidence in people in how to recycle,” he said during a news conference at a city of Lansing recycling facility.

Michigan Recycling Coalition Executive Director Kerrin O’Brien described the initiative as a “laser-focused educational effort,” noting that it is not uncommon for people to place their recyclables in plastic bags that gets caught in machines and increase costs. Not washing a peanut butter container, she said, can cause contamination. “Really it’s helping people get clear that what we’re trying to produce here are marketable commodities that will be bought by an end user, and if it’s contaminated in these many ways, it’s more difficult for them to use it,” O’Brien said.

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