Thursday, April 22, 2021

Talking trash

Residential recycling education is planned

Canton Township residents are about to get schooled in the art of recycling.

Canton Township launched Feet on the Street, a cart-tagging recycling campaign last week, with awareness and outreach activities to continue through the spring across the township. 

It's a new effort by Canton Township to improve the quality of recycling in single-stream curbside carts by providing the approximately 28,000 township households with personalized and real-time curbside recycling education and feedback.

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do - and this program represents a major step forward for recycling in our community,” said Canton Township Supervisor Anne Marie Graham-Hudak.

Included in the Feet on the Street program is a comprehensive education and outreach strategy that involves a team of community-based observers - essentially a squad of “recycling detectives” - who will visit each Canton Township residential recycling cart and provide tailored feedback on how to improve items that make it into the container.   

In addition, the education campaign will target approximately 28,000 single-family households in the proposed project area using direct mail pieces and social media messaging, as well as concentrated tagging efforts that address contamination. 

The township is teaming with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership (TRP) to introduce the community-wide project which is aimed at improving the quality of materials residents recycle in their curbside recycling carts during 2021. 

Canton Township is among more than 100 Michigan communities representing 300,000-plus households statewide that requested funding support from EGLE totaling $800,000 in individual grants, including $85,263 to Canton Township.

 “Recycling properly not only saves our taxpayers money by reducing the cost of processing at the materials recovery facility, but it also supports jobs and improves the health of the environment,” Graham-Hudak said. “We know Canton Township residents want to recycle the right way. Through this Feet on the Street campaign, we are providing them customized, immediate feedback to do just that.”

The Feet on the Street program is intended to increase the amount of quality recyclables so that items accepted for recycling are guaranteed to make their way back into new products. Achieving that quality standard in recycled materials ensures they can circulate back in the recycling system to become new products or packaging while also reducing the amount of non-recyclables in recycling carts. 

Developed by The Recycling Partnership, the nationally acclaimed program helps communities achieve economically efficient recycling programs, reduces the number of new resources used in packaging by providing more recycled content for new products, and improves the cleanliness of communities. 

Recipients of the Feet on the Street print and electronic informational fliers will be encouraged to recycle paper and cartons; cardboard; metal items such as cans; plastic bottles, jars and jugs; and glass bottles and jars. Residents are also urged not to bag their recyclables and not to recycle such items as plastic bags or plastic wrap; “tanglers” such as cords, hoses or chains; yard waste and food or liquids.

 The flier will direct Canton Township recipients seeking more information to visit or call (734) 397-1011, ext. 0.

“The Feet on the Street program works by giving residents instant feedback on what is and is not recyclable,” said Jill Martin, director of community programs at The Recycling Partnership. 

“Through this personalized and real-time feedback loop, we are going to help Canton Township capture more quality recyclables that can then be transformed into new materials, creating and supporting jobs, a less wasteful planet and stronger, healthier communities,” Martin added. 

Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist with EGLE, said materials aren't truly recycled until they are transformed into a new product for use. Those uses, he said, save energy, reduce water consumption, decrease greenhouse gases and conserve resources while creating jobs and growing the economy.

 “Material should be clean and practically free of any contaminants to be considered viable for an end market and repurposing,” Flechter said.

 The goal of the Feet on the Street project will be to reduce the percentage of contamination and educate customers on how to recycle correctly.

Now, more than ever, Michigan residents view recycling as an essential public service. And during a time of social distancing when the offices of many nonessential employers are closed and commercial recycling is near an all-time low, producers see residential recycling programs as a critical supplier of manufacturing materials. 

 “Canton Township is excited about this project and sees this as a great opportunity to help improve the recycling resource stream through much-needed public education on the benefits of recycling correctly,” Graham-Hudak said, noting the township provided a $32,000 matching grant to support the campaign. 

The Recycling Partnership has implemented the Feet on the Street program in 70 communities across the country, resulting in average 27 percent increases in the overall capture of quality recyclables.  

  “We are looking forward to partnering with Michigan communities and The Recycling Partnership on this data-driven approach,” said Elizabeth Browne, director of EGLE Materials Management Division. “It's more important than ever to communicate with the public in order to improve the quality of materials being recycled. We all have a role to play in helping businesses get materials to make the essential products Michigan needs for our economic recovery from COVID-19, such as toilet paper, food containers and shipping boxes.”