Recycle Livingston hosted a presentation at the Brighton District Library this week, during which Kerrin O'Brien, Executive Director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, spoke to local residents about the benefits and future of recycling.
Recycle Livingston collects and directs solid waste products from county residents to responsible recycling facilities for reuse or re-purposing. Holding the presentation with the Michigan Recycling Coalition was just one way the organization is trying to increase awareness about the need and benefits of recycling.
Michigan is currently behind other states when it comes to recycling, according to O'Brien.
Legislators set a goal in 2007 to recycle 50 percent of solid waste. If the state lived up to that goal, it would capture 4.9 million tons for recycling, which would equal $492 million in raw material value, O'Brien said. However, the current rate is only about 16 percent.
O'Brien said that some of the biggest problems facing Michigan's success in recycling are the lack of government leadership, lack of a statewide data collection and education, no economic development activities and lack of funding for local programs.
John Boris, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Recycle Livingston, said the organization has been facing recent challenges in the form of dwindling membership which means less dues and donations to fund their programs.
"As, has likely been the case for all non-profits in the country, we have experienced some reduction in memberships and donations due to the economy as many families re-prioritized their expenditures," he said. "We understand this; in fact we have in place a program that allows members to provide volunteer hours in exchange for free memberships to ensure that all County residents, regardless of their economic situation, have access to our recycling services in order to keep solid waste out of our landfills."
However, Recycle Livingston doesn't see local programs like curbside recycling as competition, Boris said.
"It increases the number of residents that recycle, and very much supports our mission," Boris said. "However, here is where the real "challenge" lies, curbside recycling currently only addresses a portion of the solid waste stream. As curbside recycling continues to expand in the County the composition of the solid waste stream that Recycle Livingston must find recycling solutions for is changing. We are constantly looking for responsible ways to meet the communities changing need for recycling services for those solid wastes that cannot be recycled at the curb."
The new electronic recycling program is one such example of meeting the community's need, Boris said.
Looking to the future
O'Brien said there needs to be more conversations happening at the state level. Right now, the Michigan Recycling Coalition has several ideas to increase funding for recycling programs.
One would be to change the current statewide bottle bill, one of the most successful in the U.S. with a 96 percent aluminum can recovery rate. O'Brien suggested that a person would receive .05 cents per can instead of the current .10 cents.
Another idea is to create a sustainability fee, which would add between a .02 - .05 cents fee on retail transactions over $2. O'Brien said there would be exemptions to the fee on items such as prescriptions, gas and other goods the government did not want to put an additional burdens on.
In the meantime, find out more information about Recycle Livingston programs on their Facebook page. Recycle Livingston is located at 170 Catrell, about one mile east of downtown Howell. Hours of operation are Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
What do you think should be done to increase recycling statewide?