Hear the Conversations 34:58 min – 20 mb mp3
Greening of the Great Lakes was on hand May 18 at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center for the Michigan Recycling Coalition‘s 35th Annual Conference and Governor’s Recycling Summit, Michigan’s largest conference and exhibition about recycling and organics management.
Kerrin O’Brien is the executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.
She says the focus of this year’s gathering was to “catalyze the interest in updating Michigan’s solid waste policy. We have an old policy now that was focused on our move from open dumps to modern landfills. Now we know the materials we put into landfills have value. We need to help people understand and get a hold of that economic value.”
The Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel (SWSAP) and the Governor’s Recycling Council (GRC) are two separate stakeholder advisory groups that together make up the Solid Waste and Recycling Advisors. Their collective charge is to advise how to further the state’s solid waste, sustainability, and recycling goals. Their deliberations over the past few years have culminated in the development of two separate but complementary reports.
“We’re talking about creating new policies that drive recycling and better organics management that actually pay us and don’t cost us money in the future as we deal with legacy landfills,” says O’Brien.
Ashley Elzinga is Dart Corporation’s recycling and community outreach specialist.
“I work with local communities and municipalities to promote foam recycling and sustainability and recovery of our products. We’re a manufacturer of single-use food service products, and we want those products to have an end-of-life solution.”
She adds that there’s a lot of confusion among consumers about what is recyclable and compostable. “A lot of people don’t realize that foam can be recycled.”
The drive for efficiency is a core value of Dart’s environmental stewardship ethic. The company strives to maximize efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. And they work to ensure that their customers and the public know about the environmental attributes of its products. And they’re always working to develop more sustainable new materials, products, and technologies.
Jim Frey is co-founder, partner, and CEO of Resource Recycling Systems, and he’s on the board of the GRC.
He says sustainability isn’t just a buzzword at RRS – it’s crucial for long-term profitability.
“We have a value proposition that we are proud of and think is unique based on an innovation and game-changing approach to transforming the world of materials management.
“It goes beyond being efficient and doing more with less. It’s about being innovative now and making your business more resilient for the future.”
Frey says Governor Snyder wants to double Michigan’s recycling rate from 15 to 30 percent in two years. The key recommendations from the GRC to get to that doubling of the state’s recycling rate are “the carrot and the stick.
“You have to have a vision, and you have to define that vision with some benchmark standards. We call that the stick. And then you have to give people the incentive to recycle more. And that’s the carrot. That carrot and stick become the core catalysts, along with really strong education and engagement, to doubling the recycling rate.”
Jack Schinderle leads the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Waste Management and Radiological Protection Division.
The OWMRP is responsible for program areas that deal with solid, liquid, medical and hazardous waste; hazardous products; and radioactive materials.
He says “the GRC recommendations are specifically geared toward achieving the governor’s goals under the recycling initiative. The SWSAP recommendations are more about changing the framework in the state. So the process to implement them is to take these two independent sets of recommendations and put them together into some legislation.
“Ultimately, we believe that pursuing these frameworks – reducing the amount of waste we generate and reusing resources for their higher value – is going to produce healthier communities, prosperity for our citizens, and better use of our natural resources.
“It’s really local people who are going to make this happen. It’s local people who get engaged and take a leadership role and collaborate with other people and their neighbors and put these recycling opportunities into play who will make a difference.”
Matt Biolette is a municipal services manager for Republic Services.
On Twitter Matt describes himself as a “leader of change through recycling in Michigan.” And he’s a board member of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.
“At Republic Services, Inc. we’re focused on three pillars that drive our business – our simple solutions, reliability, and environmental responsibility. We’re trying to help influence our municipal customers and our residential subscription base to utilize materials in the best way possible, and recycling is one of those avenues.”
Biolette adds that “the most important thing as it relates to municipal recycling is to get your voice heard in your communities. Attend your city council meetings, your township board meetings, your board of commissioners meetings, and let them know that recycling is important to you. Let them know why, and let them know that you’re willing to help pay to have that service in your community and that you want it to be a long term, sustainable, and durable program.”
Bill Haagsma is with Speed-Tech Equipment, a service company in the waste and recycling industry that services much of the equipment that makes recycling possible.