18th March, 2023
Michigan communities are preparing to implement new waste regulations focused on sustainable composting efforts.
In December, the Michigan Senate finally passed a stalled bill supporting further implementation and regulations in composting and recycling. Local counties are encouraged to redirect recyclable materials away from landfills and into greener alternatives, building more accessible waste disposal areas and composting facilities.
Michigan has lagged behind its fellow states in environmental waste disposal, only achieving 19 percent recycling rates compared to the average 34 percent. The new bill plans to change the state’s current practices, aiming for a 30 percent recycling rate in the next six years.
“Counties will soon be funded and incentivized to plan for needed infrastructure, programs, and services to manage waste more productively through reduction, recycling, composting, and more,” Michigan Recycling Coalition director Kerrin O’Brien said.
Some controversy arose regarding recycling and composting methods when the bill first came out. Democratic representatives feared manufacturers and facilities would use harmful heating methods to process plastics and other hazardous waste — worsening pollution problems.
It took over a year for the lawmakers to revise the law to feature more regulations and requirements for composting and recycling facilities.
During the process, they included environmental advocates’ input in the bill’s revisions, hoping to help Michigan reach its vision of a circular and safe economy.
While the bill will help push many Michigan counties into environmental action, some have already installed thriving composting and recycling programs.
Ferndale has notably seen over 460 households work together in its curbside drop-off program, collecting residents’ organic waste and transforming it into quality compost.
Ferndale’s zero waste program coordinator, Claire Dion, claimed that the program redirected over 66,000 pounds of waste away from local landfills in 2021.
“We’ve got a great community here in Ferndale with a lot of people that are looking to be more sustainable at home and make those choices to be able to impact the environment in a positive way,” Dion said.
“We were really happy to see that so many resident households were willing to try it out, but also going to stick with it even when the weather was cold.”
Household residents in Ferndale were far from the only participants in the city’s waste management programs. Around half a dozen municipalities and companies joined the city’s composting efforts, further lowering waste in the area.
Emmet county scales up
Ferndale has shown massive improvements in reducing waste, even though its programs aren’t as advanced as Emmet County’s composting efforts.
The county’s northern composting facility is nearing its eighth anniversary, with the program repurposing over 600,000 pounds of organic waste every year. In 2023, it will have successfully composted over 3.3 million pounds of waste.
“We’ve just been going at it systematically and trying to provide the service, address the issue and give our residents and businesses another opportunity to address climate change and their ability to really be proactive about doing something about their waste stream,” Emmet County recycling specialist, Lindsey Walker, said.
The Emmet County Recycling program helps over 35 businesses compost residual waste from corporate activities. In addition, food waste from restaurants, grocery stores, schools and delis all go to the northern composting facility for processing.
The program has also installed drop-off locations in residential markets and the local transfer station.
Per the program’s website, the facility picks up trash and waste material from the county every Tuesday, occasionally adding a Friday pick-up through busy periods from June to October.