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Health, Science and Environment

New recycling project to educate recyclers

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Bill Smith | https://flic.kr/p/28HEdFy
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The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Recycling Partnership have introduced new anti-contamination projects to improve the capture of high-quality recyclables. 

The projects are being funded through an $800,000 EGLE grant. 

EGLE Spokesperson Jill Greenberg said the goal of the projects is education. 

“The partnership will allow communities to become better recyclers,” she said. “When we play our part and recycle smart, it will really benefit everyone in our state.”

Greenberg said contamination of recyclables is an issue. 

“This is really our centerpiece of this initiative,” Greenberg said. “It is important that we put products in the recycling bin that are clean and that it is accepted by the local recycling facilities.”

For example, she said a yogurt cup that is not cleaned out before it is thrown into the recycling bin, can contaminate a significant portion of the recycling stream around it. 

“You’re not just removing that cup, you're removing a lot of possible material from going on to become recycled material or product.”

Communication and Education Coordinator for Emmet County Department of Public Works Kate Melby said they will use grant money to educate recyclers what can and can’t be recycled.

“We get a lot of the wrong plastics in there,” she said. “The result of that is that our bins are filling up with stuff that's not recyclable. Then it comes to our facility and we sort it all and we’re spending a tremendous amount of our labor dollars on pulling out the stuff that's garbage.”

District Manager for the Missaukee Conservation District Sherry Blaszak said the education will benefit all parties involved.

“It will reduce products going to the landfill and by helping people know what to recycle and it’ll have them bring less to the recycling center that doesn't get recycled,” she said. “It helps keep our containers that we ship to our vendors cleaner, less contaminated and that is huge.”

According to EGLE, some communities that have received education in the past, have seen as much as a 57 percent decrease of non-recyclables in recycling and average a 27 percent increase in the overall capture of quality recyclables.