By Charlie Forbes

CBS Detroit – A new program aims to educate residents on recycling practices so that more recycling content can be recycled and less is sent to the landfill. Mike Csapo is an executive who manages a very large recycling program in Oakland County. His company is called the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County (RRRASOC) and handles recycling efforts for 284,000 people in Farmington, Farmington Hills, Milford, Milford Twp., Novi, South Lyon, Southfield, Walled Lake, and Wixom.

The company operates drop-off sites in Novi and Southfield, and the largest problem he sees is people are bagging up their recyclables. According to the Detroit Free Press, when residents bring their recyclables in plastic bags they cannot open them because they don’t know what is in them. So the bags are pulled from recycling bins and disposed of in landfills. “When we did our analysis of what Oakland County residents are bringing to recycle at our drop-off sites in Novi and Southfield this summer, we learned that bagged recyclables are the most common mistake people make.”, Csapo told the Detroit Free Press.

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According to Csapo that actually is some good news. “I believe that’s a relatively easy fix for us to inform people about, and I’m excited for RRRASOC to begin a comprehensive new education campaign with The Recycling Partnership that can get our residents to recycle more and better and will have a big impact in the communities we serve.” His goal is to educate people on how to properly deposit their recyclables. So his company is joining forces with a Saginaw-based non-profit called Iris Waste Diversion Specialists to create the Recycling Partnership. A first of its kind collaboration for Michigan and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

The new program is a research and education program that is already underway until the end of 2021 thanks to an $800,000 grant from EGLE. There were 14 organizations in total awarded funds by the state looking to impact 100 communities. Director of Community Programs at the Recycling Partnership, Jill Martin told the Detroit Free Press the goal is to work with EGLE and community partners to capture more quality recyclables. The key she says to do this is educating residents, “We know from experience that educating residents to recycle the correct way is key to creating and sustaining successful drop-off recycling programs for communities in southwest Oakland County and in every corner of Michigan.”

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With many people working from home, residential waste has increased and Michigan residents are viewing recycling as an essential service. Also, residential recycling efforts are being vital for companies that manufacture items from recycled content. Such items include cardboard, which millions of homes across the state are inundated with cardboard boxes with the current trend of online shopping.

Liz Brown is the Acting Director of EGLE’s Material Management Division. She says The Recycling Partnership is taking a “data-driven approach”. “It’s more important than ever to communicate with the public in order to improve the quality of materials being recycled,” Browne said to the Detroit Free press, “We all have a role to play in helping businesses get materials to make the essential products Michigan needs for our economic recovery from COVID-19, such as toilet paper, food containers, and shipping boxes.”

So the new approach by the Recycling Partnership is their “Feet on the Street” program. The program aims to put people in neighborhoods who will examine people’s recyclables and tag their bins and talk with residents with ways to make their recyclables more usable once it reaches processing sites. The effort already launched in Grand Rapids this Fall and is supposed to grow across the state in 2021. “Through the Feet on the Street campaign, we can provide residents and businesses with customized immediate feedback to do just that,” said Kerrin O’Brien, Michigan Recycling Coalition Executive Director.

Nationally the program is seeing results with more than 70 communities across the country. They are seeing a 27% increase in overall capture of quality recyclables, and some towns seeing a 57% decrease in the items that cannot be recycled in their recycling streams.

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Charlie Forbes

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