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How to avoid common mistakes & where you can recycle in metro Detroit

how-to-avoid-common-mistakes-where-you-can-recycle-in-metro-detroit

(WXYZ) – Earth Day is a time to celebrate our planet and talk about meaningful solutions to better protect it.

One area that people often focus on in these conversations is recycling. It’s something everyone can do every day to take action and reduce their waste.

According to EGLE, Michigan currently has a recycling rate of around 18 percent with the goal of reaching 30 percent by 2025. According to the EPA, we are behind the national average of 32 percent.

To get a taste of the most common recycling errors in Michigan and what we can do on Metro Detroit to improve the process, we visited a material recovery facility (MRF) in Troy.

You won’t believe some of the crazy things that come up at the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA).

Supervisor Lucas Dean says he saw everything from bowling balls to animal remains.

“During the hunting season, we see deer carcasses, deer heads,” Dean told Action News.

In SOCRRA, recyclables from Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, and Troy are re-sorted before being sent to a mill aligned.

Michigan doesn’t have a centralized recycling system. It is therefore important that you check with your local community or recycling facility to determine what is and is not acceptable for recycling.

“It comes to me and then I have to work to get rid of it, to sell it,” said Dean.

The price range for recyclable materials like paper, plastic and glass changes every month and overall, according to Dean, it is increasing.

To make money, he has to ship and sell in bulk. Take plastics for example; identified by really long complicated names like polyethylene terephthalate or low density polyethylene and assigned a number 1 through 7.

But here is what you really need to know as a consumer:

  • Plastics 1-2 are generally pretty easy to recycle. Make sure they are flushed, clean, and capped, and throw them in the trash at home.
  • But 3-7s, items such as a plastic ketchup bottle, a fast food mug, a plastic coat hanger or an ice bucket can take longer at SOCRRA and are often more difficult to find despite being recyclable. These can also end up in the trash at home.

“If the packers talked to the mills it would help,” said Dean, explaining how to expand recycling and make it easier for consumers to reuse.

A new program from EGLE called NextCycle aims to achieve this by expanding the state supply chain for recycling and recovery.

“We’re connecting the packaging manufacturers and the brands of the companies that make the products we all buy with opportunities to support recycling,” said Matt Flechter, Michigan EGLE’s recycling market development specialist.

According to EGLE, 97 million US dollars will already be made available for recycling projects by partners in 2020 and 2021, which in addition to Meijer include: Henry Ford Health System, GFL Environmental, Cardboard Council of North America, Goodwill Industries, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Foodservice Packaging Institute, US Business Council for Sustainable Development, Emterra Environmental, Washtenaw County, Great Lakes Tissue, and more than 30 Michigan companies, organizations, and nonprofits.

The program is to be expanded further. Interested partners can click here.

Dean says that in order to improve the state’s recycling credentials, consumers need to play a role too.

Things like pizza boxes, as long as they’re not covered in cheese or fat, can be recycled by taking them to the SOCRRA facility at 995 Coolidge, Troy, MI (between 14 Mile and Maple). Dean recommends that people don’t throw these straight into the trash can.

He has the same advice on styrofoam which is likely to break and therefore cannot be reused if just thrown in the trash at home. A similar warning for batteries; If they are thrown in your trash can at home and then delivered to SOCRRA, they will be landed in a landfill. Dean suggests that batteries be shipped direct to SOCRRA as well.

Due to COVID-19, appointments at the SOCRRA drop-off point are required and you must be a resident of one of the member communities for certain items.

Click here to make an appointment.

Due to the pandemic, the workforce at SOCRRA has fallen by around half, and some sorting lines have had to slow down. Before the pandemic, they were sorting about 15 tons an hour, but now it’s about 13.5.

Things like face masks that SOCRRA staff have seen a lot recently are not recyclable. Not recyclable either? Latex gloves, infusion tubes and garden hoses.

And then there are the notorious grocery store plastic bags, or as Dean calls them, “film” that can clog the machines at SOCRRA. “Film” is technically recyclable, but no longer at SOCRRA. He suggests taking it to a grocery store like Meijer or Kroger for recycling.

“I could have an item that might have a recycling symbol on it and I just threw it in the trash because I thought it was recyclable,” Jill Greenberg told EGLE. She speaks of “dream cycling”, something we’ve probably all done before. Throw something in the trash, assuming we’ve done our part for the planet.

As cities have different rules and procedures for recycling, it is important to check with that particular municipality or recycling center to see if you can drop it off yourself.

At SOCRRA, try the Waste Assistant – a tool right on the website’s home page that allows you to enter the name of an item. There you will find out how to properly dispose of or recycle it.

The state also has a tool on its website.

“If you put plastic number 6 in your trash and your collection program doesn’t take it, you create additional costs,” said Flechter.

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Dusty Kennedy