June 21, 2024

Largest recycling investment in 30 years benefits MI organizations, tribes

LANSING, Mich. — Reduce, reuse and recycle — that’s a mission for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA announced its largest recycling investment in 30 years this past November, placing funding in the hands of Michigan tribes and the Michigan Recycling Coalition.

FOX 17 spoke with Nena Shaw, the Director of the Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division within EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, about these recent efforts.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Nena Shaw, The Director of the Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division within EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management

One of the questions that FOX 17 asked Shaw was why the EPA wanted to invest in recycling infrastructure.

I think what I always go back to is in 2017, China issued the National Sword Policy, and they basically stopped taking our trash,” said Shaw. “The minute that happened, recyclables and plastics and other things started piling up in ports and in areas around the country. I think folks realized, wow, we need to think about this differently.”

Since then, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has been intent on improving our national recycling system.

“It really was November of 2021, when we announced and launched our national recycling strategy,” said Shaw. “Part one of building a circular economy for all, on the exact same day that the President signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

That law provided funding through grants to implement a strategy.

“It’s the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that provided $275 million for solid waste infrastructure for recycling grants. That meant that we got 55 million a year for five years to help improve the system throughout the country.”


Associated Press

Of that funding, four Michigan tribes and intertribal consortia received grants to improve their recycling and waste management systems.

The Bay Mills Indian Community received $970,000 to increase recycling and waste diversion rates, in addition to reduce contamination. The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians received $1,084,454 to increase post-consumer materials management, including the diversion of municipal solid waste from the landfill. That includes helping to expand and improve the Gun Lake Casino food waste management and diversion through the operation of a large-scale food waste digester.

The Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians received $240,000 to promote source reduction and increase waste diversion rates throughout the Little Traverse Bay Bands community. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan received $1,499,856 to increase its capacity to collect recycled materials.

All-in-all, over $3.7 Million went towards Michigan tribes and intertribal consortia.

The Michigan Recycling Coalition also received funding for their recycling education and outreach programs. The Michigan Recycling Coalition received $1,821,887 to develop and deliver a comprehensive, best practice education and outreach program to train targeted recycling professionals. Those professionals will learn about and develop CBSM-based education strategies.

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Michigan Recycling Coalition (MRC)

When talking to Katie Fournier, the Michigan Recycling Coalition Education Program Coordinator, she said that this grant also helps them add new staff members to their organization. She also said that this was a completely new territory for them, and that they had never received funding from the EPA at this level.

“We’re going to have so much bigger of an impact on the ground by providing financial support for communities, as well as the tools and resources that they will need to level up their recycling education, with messaging that’s really tailor made to each individual community, and their unique perspectives and behaviors.”

The Michigan Recycling Coalition’s mission is to foster sustainability by leading, educating, and mobilizing business, government, non-profit, and individuals to advance their own and collective resource use and recovery initiatives. That’s according to their website.

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Michigan Recycling Coalition (MRC)

Katie Fournier told FOX 17 that waste is always going to be a part of our day-to-day lives, but her organization wants people to learn the value of recycling, and how to do it the right way.

“There’s been this kind of shift in attitudes towards recycling or almost like a loss in faith that the process is really working. So it’s so important to have an organization like ours that’s purely mission based or nonprofit, and really knows the importance of conservation, to demystify the process and communicate, how to recycle properly, and then how those materials are used at the end of their life to the benefit of the local Michigan economy and the planet.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told FOX 17 that it goes beyond one organization or one community. Nena Shaw told FOX 17, “communities, companies, nonprofits, you name it, it is going to take all of us.” In addition to recycling, the EPA says that we need to focus on reusing and reducing. Their recycling strategy focuses on a circular economy.

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Michigan Recycling Coalition (MRC)

A circular economy keeps materials and products in circulation for as long as possible.

“It’s really thinking about materials use and redesigning those materials and products to be less resource intensive, and recapturing the waste as a resource to manufacture new materials and products,” said Shaw.

It’s an opportunity for companies to really think about the products they make, and for consumers to really think about the products they consume.

On Earth Day of 2023, the EPA announced a draft of the national strategy to prevent plastic pollution, which builds off their their National Recycling Strategy. The EPA received over 91,000 comments from the public on the prevention of plastic pollution. “We all know that plastic has created challenges for individuals, communities, states, countries, and even internationally,” said Shaw.

The EPA is also working on a strategy to reduce food loss and waste. They are accepting comments from the public on that strategy through February 3.

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Michigan Recycling Coalition (MRC)

“We’re just so excited to be able to get money in the hands of communities, to help them solve these challenges and really manage their waste, increase their recycling, and reduce climate change and environmental justice issues,” said Shaw.

When FOX 17 spoke with Katie Fournier, she said that it’s never too late to change our habits when it comes to recycling and composting.

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