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Posted on: September 22, 2022

City of East Lansing Chosen for Six-Month Project to Improve Residential Recycling

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — The City of East Lansing has joined the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE); The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works with communities, companies and governments to transform recycling; and almost 100 other Michigan communities to help residents recycle more, better.

Starting this month, a six-month pilot project will begin with involvement from the City, EGLE, The Recycling Partnership, Prairie Robotics and The Ohio State University. The project is a modified version of The Recycling Partnership’s “Feet on the Street” cart tagging recycling initiative —a community-wide initiative to improve the quality of recycling in curbside recycling carts by providing residents personalized and real-time curbside recycling education and feedback. Traditionally, this is done by someone tagging carts on the street if contaminants - items that aren’t accepted for curbside recycling, such as plastic bags – are in the recycling cart. 

In East Lansing, instead of someone reviewing contents and placing a tag on curbside recycling carts, Prairie Robotics will retrofit the City’s recycling collection trucks with camera technology. Those cameras will capture if contamination was in the recycling cart and residents will receive a mailer with information about what and how to recycle correctly. 

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” said East Lansing Environmental Specialist Cliff Walls. “We are excited the City was selected for this first-of-its kind project in the U.S. by EGLE, The Recycling Partnership and Prairie Robotics. Recycling properly saves our taxpayers money by reducing costly damage to equipment as well as the expense of sending contaminated, otherwise recyclable material to the landfill. We know residents want to recycle the right way and, through this campaign, we are providing them feedback to do just that.”

Through $28,000 in grant funding and technical support from The Recycling Partnership, the City will implement a comprehensive education and outreach strategy. 

“The Recycling Partnership is excited to continue working with EGLE and Michigan communities to improve residential recycling across the state,” said Cassandra Ford, Community Program Manager at The Recycling Partnership. “On this project in particular in East Lansing, the addition of Prairie Robotics technology and The Ohio State University providing statistical analysis on results, we expect to receive comprehensive conclusions on the effectiveness of combining camera technology with educational outreach to improve recycling.”  

This year, more than $815,000 in grant funding will be allocated to 14 recycling program grantees, representing more than 369,000 households across the Great Lakes state in 2022. Overall, these 14 grantees are building on the impact made during a 2021 project with a similar goal to improve recycling across Michigan, which reached 100 communities and expanded Michigan’s award-winning Know It Before You Throw It campaign, aimed at increasing the state’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025. 

“EGLE is excited to continue working with The Recycling Partnership and Michigan communities to continue to improve residential recycling through these quality improvement projects,” said Emily Freeman, Recycling Specialist with EGLE’s Materials Management Division. “We all have a role to play in the circular economy and these grants will help even more Michigan communities engage with their residents and improve the quality of recyclable materials collected in curbside and drop-off programs across Michigan.”

Developed by The Recycling Partnership, the traditional “Feet on the Street” program has been implemented in more than 70 communities around the nation, with some communities seeing as much as a 57% decrease of nonrecyclables in recycling and an average of a 27% increase in the overall capture of quality recyclables. East Lansing residents can learn more about what is and is not acceptable in curbside recycling carts at www.cityofeastlansing.com/recycle.

 At The Recycling Partnership, we are solving for circularity. We mobilize people, data and solutions across the value chain to unlock the environmental and economic benefits of recycling and a circular economy. We work on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs and tackle circular economy challenges. We work with companies to make their packaging more circular and help them meet their climate and sustainability goals. And we work with government to develop the policy solutions that will address the systemic needs of our residential recycling system. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 500 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 968 million gallons of water, avoided more than 500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at recyclingpartnership.org.

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