In the Great Lakes State, the habit of recycling “returnables” comes second nature to us. Taking them in for 10 cents a pop has Michiganders bringing in more than 90 percent of bottles and cans purchased. Responsible recycling, however, goes well beyond this incentivized program. When it comes to every other reusable material, Michigan falls well behind the pack at a 14.5% rate. The national average hovers around 35 percent.

So why does Michigan struggle to recycling glass, plastics, metals, paper and organics? According to the office of Governor Rick Snyder, it all starts with the historic lack of convenient access to recycling. That prompted a statewide recycling initiative in 2014 to curb the amount of recyclable material from filling our landfills.

Moreover, there has been a distinct lack of public awareness beyond the 10-cent program. Nowadays, there are more ways than ever to recycle, and as more stakeholders like manufacturers and grocery stores get behind the state program, the methods and means will become more available to the public. A few of the newest ways Michiganders can get recycling are:

  1. Composting: Practically a requirement in progressive, zero-waste cities like San Francisco, composting turns organic matter like food waste and shredded paper into a dark, rich soil. All you need is a composting bin to allow the materials to break down together, and you can then use this amazing fertilizer in your next home gardening project.
  2. Electronics recycling: With new smart phones and devices coming out every single year, proper disposal has become a hot button issue in environmental protection. The metals and wires that make up electronics could literally take millions of years to decompose. Computers, printers, monitors, TVs and phones are just some of the items that you should take special care in recycling. Visit your home county’s website for collectors and buy-back programs near you.
  3. Recycling plastic bags: Some families may choose to reuse plastic bags from the grocery store as smaller trash bags around the house. However, if these are disposed of in curbside bins, they will still find their way to the landfill – or perhaps even to our rivers and lakes. As a result, retailers like Kroger, Target and Walgreens now offer bag recycling collection boxes in the entrances to the store. The bags are then chipped down into pellets, and reprocessed into other materials like plastic lumber.

Think twice before you toss all of your garbage into the can. By being responsible with how we dispose of items in our home, we together can help build a more sustainable future for Michigan.

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