Recycling 101

Michigan's recycling rate of 20% continues to be the lowest among our neighboring Great Lakes States (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), none of whom have a bottle deposit law. Michigan's rate is also much lower than both the average of these Great Lakes States (31%) and the national average recycling rate of 29 percent.

Perhaps the two most emphasized benefits of increased recycling are the twin outcomes of:

1. The creation of new jobs and employment opportunities, plus
2. Conservation of resources, combined with energy savings and a significant reduction in greenhousee gas emissions.


If Michigan were to increase its recycling rate to the Great Lakes average of 31 percent, the estimated annual reduction in carbon dioxide would be at least 2,207,299 metric tons. This reduction in GHG is equivalent to more than 400,000 fewer passenger vehicles on the road, more than 250 million gallons of gasoline saved annually, annual electricity savings to power more than 300,000 homes, annual energy savings to meet the demands of more than 200,000 homes, or more than 15,000 acres of rain forest preserved from deforestation.


Increasing recycling in Michigan from 20 percent to 30 percent would also create between 6,810 and 12,986 jobs. This addition of jobs would generate $155 to $300 million in income, $1.8 to $3.9 billion in receipts, and about $12 to $22 million in state taxes.


In the past 30 years the United States has made great strides in finding ways to recycle waste. Yet waste generation continues to rise.

It is well settled that the most cost effective way to capture the most material for recycling at a far lower cost to the consuming public is through comprehensive local curbside and drop-off recycling programs.

Comprehensive recycling programs typically address about 33 percent of municipal solid waste, and thus can facilitate meaningful improvements in Michigan's recycling rate. The convenience of curbside recycling means consumers can set recyclables out at the curb, rather than having to lug them to a store.

It costs four times more per ton to recycle under a traditional deposit program than through comprehensive curbside and drop-off recycling programs. It can cost 10 times more per ton to recycle non-carbonated containers through a deposit system than through comprehensive recycling programs.

Traditional bottle bills like Michigan's address only 3.1 percent of municipal solid waste. Adding non-carbonated beverage containers to Michigan's bottle bill will increase recycling by another 0.7 percent at most –– at a cost of $60 million per year to the consumer.

Focusing Recycling on The Entire Waste Stream

Michigan has one of the worst recycling rates in the U.S., and the lowest among our neighboring Great Lakes States, none of whom have a container deposit law. Those searching for ways to expand recycling often revert back to looking at the deposit system, which captures a large percentage of a single category of items, but unfortunately, ignores the other 95% of the Municipal Solid Waste Stream.

The following studies and policy papers document the opportunities in Michigan for increased recycling, increased jobs, and a cleaner environment.