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Posted on: February 25, 2020

Bay City kicks off new education campaign supporting largest expansion of recycling in city history

Take Pride At Curbside Bay City Recycles

Bay City, Mich.  – Leaders with the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) joined with Bay City Mayor Kathleen Newsham, state Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City, and city officials to announce a first-of-its-kind education partnership that will support the largest expansion of recycling in Bay City history.

The aim of the pilot project is to eliminate wire hangers, plastic shopping bags and foam packaging from curbside bins because those items damage equipment, increase costs and cause significant delays in processing for recyclers. Bay City’s new multimedia marketing, outreach and engagement campaign that starts today is part of EGLE’s statewide Know It Before You Throw It awareness effort to inform Michigan residents on what they can – and cannot – recycle.

Bay City is among six Michigan communities teaming with EGLE on similar campaigns in 2020, including recycling programs serving residents in Oakland County, Emmet County, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Marquette.

“This exciting new EGLE pilot project partnership is the first time Michigan has unveiled a “hyper-local” education campaign targeting specific recyclable items since the state passed the bottle deposit law in 1976,” said EGLE Assistant Director of the Materials Management Division Elizabeth Browne.

“We are committed to informing and inspiring more people than ever before in Bay City, the Great Lakes Bay Region and across Michigan about how to recycle better,” Browne said.

EGLE’s national award-winning Know It Before You Throw It campaign is promoting best practices and emphasizes that recycling materials saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs. Recycling in Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators have increased EGLE’s funding for recycling projects from $2 million in the last fiscal year to $15 million in FY 2019-2020.

“Our new education strategy coincides with Bay City’s eagerly anticipated plan to open a new public drop-off site in May,” Newsham said. The community will get its first look at the new facility, which is supported by a $50,000 EGLE grant, on April 25 during the Clean Up Bay City|Earth Day Event.

“The new Bay City Recycles Drop-Off Center will make it easier than ever before for Bay City residents – and others who live in the Great Lakes Bay Region – to reduce, reuse and recycle items instead of throwing them away,” Newsham said.

Residents in Bay City and the surrounding area “will soon have the opportunity to recycle items not currently part of Bay City’s curbside recycling collection program,” said Bay City Manager Dana Muscott. “We’re proud to report that the City of Bay City is the first local municipality to offer these services within the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

Highlighting today’s Bay City news conference was the Great Lakes Bay Region debut of EGLE’s Recycling Raccoon Squad, a six-member team of recycling champions who serve as EGLE’s education ambassadors. EGLE research shows education is key to learning how to properly recycle. For example:

  • 50% of Michigan residents mistakenly believe they’re allowed to recycle plastic bags in their curbside recycling, which is prohibited by most municipalities statewide.
  • 76% of Michiganders are unaware that failing to rinse and empty items before putting them in the recycling bin poses a risk of contaminating everything in the bin.

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 nation’s lowest. Equally important, EGLE and its campaign partners across the state are promoting awareness of cleaner recycling practices to reduce the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins.

The Know It Before You Throw It campaign comes at a time when communities across Michigan and the U.S. are struggling with international market shifts for recyclables. At the same time, recyclers nationwide are placing a priority on shipping cleaner materials to their customers with an emphasis that generating more clean recyclables can create jobs and build stronger local economies.

The economic impact of tripling the recycling rate to 45% would support 138,000 new jobs in Michigan’s recycling industry, providing $9 billion in annual labor income and $33.8 billion in economic output according to a newly available study commissioned by EGLE.

“EGLE’s Know It Before You Throw It campaign is developing the consistency in recycling messaging that we need to successfully reduce the likelihood of recycling the wrong items,” Elder said. “A rigorous, multi-pronged strategy is essential to achieve a statewide recycling rate of 30%, and my legislative colleagues and I are confident EGLE’s campaign is moving Michigan in the right direction both environmentally and economically.”

Bay City officials prioritized the elimination of wire hangers, plastic shopping bags and foam packaging from its curbside recycling bins because they pose the greatest challenge to recyclers, according to Bay City Parks and Environmental Affairs Manager Tim Botzau. 

“Generally, wire clothes hangers are tricky to recycle because of their awkward shape – they can easily entangle machinery at recycling facilities and cause delays for workers who have to remove each obstruction by hand,” Botzau said. “Our message on hangers is simple: Please do not put them in your curbside recycling bin as they create all kinds of havoc at the recycling sorting facilities.”

Plastic shopping bags and the foam packaging commonly used for take-away coffee cups, takeout food containers, meat trays and packaging on some home appliance items, for example, are unaccepted materials that do more harm than good when recycled curbside, Botzau added, because they decrease the quality of recyclables used to make new products.

“The unfortunate fact too many well-intentioned people don’t realize is that those foam egg cartons, packing peanuts, or any other type of foam, are not recyclable in your curbside recycling bin,” Botzau said. “There are some exceptions, but very few local governments accept them curbside.”

EGLE’s Know It Before You Throw It was recently named the 2019 Recycling Campaign of the Year by Waste Dive, a leading industry news publisher based in Washington, D.C.

More information about the Know It Before You Throw It campaign is available at RecyclingRaccoons.org. To stay up to date on other EGLE news, follow Michigan.gov/MIEnvironment.

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