By JOHN FLESHER
AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder released a plan Monday to boost recycling of household solid waste in Michigan, which lags behind most other states despite once being a trendsetter with its beverage container deposit law.
The initiative calls for doubling within two years the rate at which Michigan recycles cans, newspapers, bottles and other household refuse, presently estimated at 15 percent. Even then, it would remain below the national average, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts at 35 percent.
“It’s time to reclaim our leadership position,” Snyder said in an interview. “If we can recycle more, it’s good for economic growth and potentially creating jobs … and from an environmental point of view, isn’t it much better to reuse these goods rather than have them just show up in a landfill?”
About $435 million worth of materials in Michigan that could be recycled ends up trashed each year, accordingly to the state Department of Environmental Quality. It blames the poor showing on weak markets for recycled commodities and lack of access. Just 25 of the 83 counties make recycling convenient by providing curbside pickup or what the DEQ considers an adequate number of drop-off sites. Among the plan’s goals is providing convenient access statewide by 2017.
The plan would make no changes in the 10-cent beverage deposit policy, which voters approved in 1976. It’s popular with consumers and environmentalists, who want it expanded to cover water bottles and other containers, but many store operators complain about being required to accept used bottles and cans.
A draft of the strategy made public last year proposed allowing retailers to opt out of accepting returned containers and opening “redemption centers” where they could be taken instead. That provision was scrapped from the final version, which also does not include a requirement that waste haulers operating in Michigan offer recycling services.
Such proposals could be discussed by a newly established Governor’s Recycling Council, which will oversee implementation of the program.
DEQ Director Dan Wyant said the plan represents a consensus among a 45-member advisory panel representing landfill operators, manufacturers, waste haulers, environmental advocates and others.
It takes a four-pronged approach:
– Collecting and analyzing data on amounts and types of materials that are recycled, and on access to recycling and residential participation rates, all of which are important to measuring progress.
– Educating the public and providing technical assistance to communities for building recycling programs. One of three state positions created under the $1.5 million initiative will be a coordinator for outreach to locals. The others will focus on market development and public relations.
– Providing incentives and encouraging regional partnerships to increase participation in recycling and improve access. Grants will be offered to local governments that adopt ordinances or include curbside service in contracts with waste haulers.
– Stimulating markets for recycled products through measures such as using tax-exempt bonds to encourage investment in waste utilization facilities and creating a directory identifying potential buyers for recycled items.
The plan drew favorable reviews from environmental groups.
“This is a good start,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., spokesman for the Michigan Environmental Council. “We hope it finally leads to some real progress on recycling.”
The Michigan Recycling Coalition, which represents government agencies and private companies, considers the plan “a practical and measured approach,” Executive Director Kerrin O’Brien said.
“The challenge going forward is to dig into more difficult issues, such as … whose role it will be to motivate and educate people to take advantage of these programs, and should providing recycling services be a requirement for waste haulers to do business in Michigan,” O’Brien said.
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