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The Reason Recycling Must Be Mandated

Jun 2 | 2021  by

The Michigan Legislature is currently considering a package of bills that would promote new recycling and composting requirements. While recycling is on the minds of many residents, this bill package does not incentivize continuing to do so. It includes expanding government mandates, new fees/increased costs, and uncertain environmental gains.

HB 4454 and 4455: These bills define several new sections of Part 115 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. Most importantly, they will drive the state toward a 30% recycling rate by 2029, with a targeted household waste rate of 45%. The bills also require materials management plants to replace solid waste management plans.

HB 4456: Establishes prices and requirements for state permits for landfills, coal ash impoundments, and various other sites or facilities that manage waste. It also has requirements concerning how landfills manage the gases they produce. Additionally, they describe how the state must inspect landfills and what landfill operators must do to maintain and monitor a landfill after it is closed. The bill’s final section covers the management and operation of waste diversion centers, which separate certain wastes – hazardous or liquid materials, electronics and batteries, pharmaceuticals, light bulbs, pesticides, etc. – from the general waste stream.

HB 4457: Increases bonding requirements for landfills and coal ash impoundments. It also requires landfill operators to increase their cost estimates of what it will take to close and maintain a landfill. This bill also removes a landfill operator’s right to request a lower bond requirement and calls for a new landfill care fund for landfills covered by section 11523(1)(b).

HB 4458: Established inspection requirements for materials utilization facilities, which recycle, compost, or convert waste to energy, rather than disposing of it. It also requires companies that pick up residential trash to establish recycling programs for their customers. The bill also affects solid waste management plans, which are currently created by counties and other local governments. It will transfer the responsibility for creating them to the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Additionally, this bill prohibits residents from burning leaves and yard or household waste when they live in communities with 7,500 or more people.

HB 4459: Expands the list of things that the solid waste staff account can spend money on. This would include planning, education, and outreach, developing a recycling market directory, and dispensing grants to pay for planning, outreach, marketing, and education related to recycling. It also allows the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to hire an employee to promote recycling markets. Finally, this bill establishes funding and loan programs to promote recycling marketing, innovation, and infrastructure programs.

HB 4460: Attempts to regulate almost every conceivable aspect of composting, from simple residential yard waste to commercial composting facilities and anaerobic digesters.

HB 4461: Creates additional regulations for materials management plans as the state focuses on recycling, composting, and waste recovery. It also directs the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to ensure that each county has an approved materials management plan. The bill outlines the procedures for a County Approval Agency to appoint a materials management planning committee and create a material management planning grant program to fund county-level materials management planning.

The bill package is a lengthy and involved step in reworking much of the state’s waste management processes. If the legislation forces municipalities across the state to meet the arbitrary 45% recycling rate, costs will be loaded onto Michigan residents. Communities will be obligated to spend limited dollars establishing a second waste collection infrastructure, as well as expanding their energy use, emissions, and personnel expenditures. Also, stricter quality controls on recyclable materials brought on by changing market pressures make it increasingly expensive to carry out intensive sorting and cleaning.

Materials management and recycling processes need to be mandated by government agencies because they do not make sense.