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Plastics recycling rates in Michigan will go up, if new initiative works

By: Jim Johnson

April 14, 2014

Clean Tech Inc. already recycles billions of plastic bottles every year, but the Dundee, Mich.-based company sees the opportunity to recycle billions more.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also wants to significantly increase recycling in the state, and trekked to Clean Tech on April 14 to promote a plan to do just that.

Clean Tech, a unit of Plastipak Packaging Inc., expects to recycle about 6 billion plastic bottles this year and has an eye on 10 billion plastic bottles within three years. But that’s only if recycling rates improve in communities served by the company.

And that’s where Snyder’s newly unveiled 15-point plan to increase residential recycling statewide can play a part.

The plan includes four key areas: public education and technical assistance for communities; benchmark and measurement of progress; providing convenient access; and development of markets.

 “We’ve been throwing away money for decades. Addressing this issue is simply the right thing to do, and I’m pleased to announce we are committed to making Michigan a leader,” the governor said in a statement.

But the state, even with its own beverage container deposit law, has some heavy lifting to catch up with the national average.

Residential household waste recycling in Michigan is at about 15 percent these days, the governor’s office said. That compares to about 35 percent nationally.

Plastipak, which called itself “a long-term partner in helping develop Michigan’s environmental policy,” said it was part of a work group that met to develop the plan unveiled by the governor.

Michigan estimates about $435 million in recyclables, including plastics, find their way into Michigan landfills every year.

Michigan is earmarking $1 million in the governor’s recommended fiscal year 2015 budget as well as another $500,000 from the state Department of Environmental Quality over the next two years in the form of pollution prevention grants.

Along with developing a statewide plan to boost recycling, the governor also revealed appointments to a newly created Michigan Recycling Council.

The council is designed to represent a variety of viewpoints. Jim Kulp, operations manager at Clean Tech, will represent plastics processors. His is the state’s largest bottle recycling facility.

Michael Csapo, general manager of Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County, will represent the recycling community. Linda Gobler, CEO of the Michigan Growers Association, will represent retailers. Bill Lobenherz, president of the Michigan Soft Drink Association, will represent bottlers.

Kerrin O’Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, will represent environmental interests. Tonia Olson, director of governmental and community relations at solid waste management company Granger, will represent the solid waste industry. Elisa Seltzer, public workers director for Emmet County, will represent public and community interests.

Doug Wood, director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, will represent local governments and regions. And Jim Frey, CEO and co-founder of Resource Recycling Systems, will represent academics and consultants.

Clean Tech recycles both PET and high density polyethylene.