Leaders of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership announced $1.2 million in Renew Michigan grants that will support the largest push in West Michigan history to promote recycling activities.
The announcement was made in a virtual news conference Monday attended by Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss; state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids; and state Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland.
“Today’s EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) grants provide a tremendous boost toward reaching West Michigan’s environmental and recycling goals,” Slagh said. “These strategic investments reflect West Michigan’s commitment to finding modern and scalable solutions across our entire recycling ecosystem.”
“There is no dispute recycling has important environmental benefits, such as limiting the need to extract new resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Brinks said. “Equally important, recycling improves local economies and creates jobs through the transformation of recycled materials into new products.”
Bliss, EGLE and The Recycling Partnership also released results from a report showing Grand Rapids successfully reduced curbside recycling contamination by 40% during the city’s Feet On The Street (FOTS) campaign last fall — the best performance in the state among the seven communities that participated in the new 2020 pilot program launch.
The city is using the FOTS data — which shows the most common mistake Grand Rapids residents commit while recycling is inadvertently putting their materials in plastic bags before it goes into bins, as recyclables should be left loose in the curbside bin — to roll out a 2021 “hyper-local” education campaign with EGLE’s support. It will inform the city’s roughly 55,000 households on best recycling practices and emphasize avoiding the use of plastic bags and plastic wrap in recycling bins.
“Grand Rapids and communities across West Michigan are excited to continue partnering with EGLE in 2021 to create and expand recycling efforts,” Bliss said. “These efforts are aligned with our sustainability goals in that they divert materials from landfills and help grow our local economy by supporting businesses committed to using recovered materials.”
The Renew Michigan fund was created with widespread bipartisan approval by the state legislature in 2019 to bolster the state’s recycling efforts.
In West Michigan, the 2021 Renew Michigan grant recipients announced by Brinks and Slagh include:
- Innovakote West Michigan ($273,000), which specializes in recycling manufacturing powder coating. As much as 400 million pounds of powder coating waste ends up in U.S. landfills every year without an adequate solution, no less than 5 million pounds of which comes from Michigan. Innovakote is using its Renew Michigan grant to help address this problem by keeping that material out of landfills. It will be using new technology to recycle this material and place it back into the market as a “virgin” project. Innovakote expects the company will begin hiring new employees and importing, recycling and selling a significant portion of the 2 billion pounds of powder coating that goes to landfills worldwide each year from its facility in West Michigan by 2023.
- City of Holland ($267,000) to support the city’s transition from an ineffective recycling bag system to a new program where all single-family homes will receive curbside recycling carts. Currently, only 12.6% of recyclables entering the stream are captured via yellow bags; the rest are mixed in with general waste and ultimately landfilled.
- Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and Padnos Recycling and Scrap Management ($200,000), with the EGLE grant serving as a catalyst to those two organizations receiving more than $820,000 in funding from a $4.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration to support the Ignite Reentry Program, which offers manufacturing/recycling certification training for individuals with criminal backgrounds or other barriers.
- The Kent County Department of Public Works ($199,000) to improve the quality and quantity of recycled glass and recycled polypropylene (No. 5) plastic — the type of plastic used in yogurt and cottage cheese containers. No. 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs in West Michigan into new products like signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, lawn rakes, as well as bins, pallets, trays and more.
- Public Thread ($133,000) in Grand Rapids, which is a community-based upcycling company working to divert scrap and surplus textiles from landfills, create living-wage jobs and support a growing creative economy. By creating something new out of materials that already exist, Public Thread is keeping thousands of pounds of textiles from the landfill, including grain bags, specialty fabrics, traditional textiles, banners, signs and billboards. Designers then transform rescued materials into a diverse collection of expertly-crafted products for mindful consumers.
- The Materials Group plastic fabrications company ($100,000) in Rockford distributes and manufactures a wide range of engineered thermoplastic resins for automotive OEMs such as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, suppliers like Mitsubishi and other industries.
- West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum ($57,000)
- Calhoun County ($37,900)
“The West Michigan community, business and nonprofit recipients that are receiving a combined record-setting total of $1.2 million in Renew Michigan grants are part of EGLE’s strategy to support recycling infrastructure, improve the quality of recyclable materials and promote market development using the Renew Michigan Fund,” said Elizabeth Browne, EGLE director of materials management division.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state legislators want to double Michigan’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately reach 45% annually. Michigan’s current 15% recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and ranks among the lowest in the U.S.
Recycling across Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators have increased EGLE’s funding for recycling projects from $2 million annually to $15 million per year moving forward. The additional funds are being used to support the development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and support planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level.