Sending waste to landfills is more expensive than it seems, a recycling advocate told Michigan lawmakers Tuesday. It costs money to store and manage trash.  It also takes valuable material like plastic and aluminum out of the supply chain and away from manufacturers who could reuse it, Michigan Recycling Coalition Executive Director Kerrin O’Brien said. “Currently, Michiganders spend over $1 billion to landfill nearly $600 million worth of materials every year,” she said, figures shown in a 2017 state recycling council report. “That’s a lot of money.”

A package of bills recently introduced in the state House aims to flip that equation by rewriting Michigan’s solid waste law to emphasize recycling and composting material over sending it to landfills. O’Brien, lawmakers and waste industry representatives testified Monday in front of the House Natural Resources Committee about those bills, which aim to increase the state’s recycling rate, provide curbside or drop-off recycling for almost every Michigander and strengthen oversight of landfill and composting facilities.

The proposed overhaul has been years in the making, starting in 2012 as an initiative to improve Michigan’s recycling rate — which hovers around 15% — under former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Specifically, the five-bill waste overhaul package aims to:

  • Increase the recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately to 45%.
  • Expand residential recycling services.
  • Increase state oversight of landfills, recycling and composting facilities.
  • Use some of the money in the Solid Waste Management Fund, supported by fees levied on landfills, composting and waste processing facilities, to develop the Michigan recycling market.
  • Require counties to rewrite their waste management plans, with state funding help, to increase recycling and composting in their communities. Those plans would have to be approved by the state.
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Author: Carol Thompson, Lansing State Journal
Photo: Matthew Dae Smith, Lansing State Journal