Kerrin O’Brien, executive director of The Michigan Recycling Coalition, spoke with Kirk Heinze of WKAR about Michigan Recycling Coalition’s Annual Conference and the state of recycling. “We’re having market challenges,” O’Brien tells Heinze. “For 15 years we’ve been dependent on China, who has been the biggest market for our materials. We’ve invested in building the volume and getting as much material to them as possible, and they don’t want it right now. Or they want really clean material that we’re having trouble providing because we haven’t invested in our material recovery facilities to really get the science specifications that we need to deliver clean quality material to manufacturers. So, we need to reinvest in our material recovery facilities and we need to educate people about how to recycle right.
“What’s ironic about this is that when I talk to some people here at our show who buy materials, they have capacity. They need more materials. They’re having to go much farther than Michigan to get their materials. If we could align ourselves correctly, we could have them working at capacity.
“But we don’t, so we’re not able to benefit from the full capacity of our own markets here in this country because we can’t even deliver them what they need. So again, we need to get really good at pulling good quality material out of households and businesses and processing it and delivering it in a way that manufacturers can really use it here. The China market will be there. They just need clean good material too.”
O’Brien credits Governor Snyder for getting Michigan thinking more about the importance of recycling to Michigan’s environment and economy. And she says the Whitmer administration is carrying that momentum forward. And she talks about other challenges and opportunities facing the recycling industry as we look forward to the rest of 2019 and into 2020.