Recycling Market Development: Creating a Supply Chain for Michigan Businesses

April 16, 2015

Every day, Michiganders throw valuable commodities like paper, metal and plastic in the garbage for a one-way trip to a landfill. Meanwhile manufacturers are spending money on the same materials to incorporate into their products.

In fact, Michiganders dispose more than $435 million dollars of recyclable paper, metal, glass and plastic every year. Those buried resources represent wasted energy, economic value and jobs.

Last April, Gov. Rick Snyder announced his Residential Recycling Plan of Action and set the ambitious goal of doubling our residential recycling rate and ensuring all Michigan residents have convenient access to curbside and drop-off recycling opportunities. As part of that plan, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hired four experts to provide technical assistance to communities and the recycling industry.

Additionally, the plan calls for a renewed focus on recycling market development so that valuable commodities will find new life in Michigan-made products. After all, there is no reason to collect recyclables if they cannot be reused. The DEQ’s Recycling Market Development Specialist is working to create a domestic supply chain of commodities for Michigan businesses. By having a robust system of collection, transportation, processing and end-use, Michigan will be able to supply existing businesses with many of the commodities they need to thrive.

More and more companies are establishing sustainability goals that look at the entire lifecycle of the products they manufacture. That may be why Michigan is seeing increased interest from businesses looking to play a role in strengthening the recycled commodity supply chain. A strong, statewide recycling system provides assurance to manufacturers that when product leaves their factory dock, it has the possibility of entering the recycling stream at the end of its intended use. A strong recycling system better enables a manufacturer to “close the loop” and return their used products’ commodities back to the manufacturing process.

In addition to strengthening Michigan’s recycled commodity supply chain, the DEQ is identifying new and unique domestic markets for hard-to-recycle materials like certain types of glass and mixed plastics. By using existing business development tools, the DEQ is seeking innovative and entrepreneurial leaders to tackle the challenging materials and identify new business opportunities for those commodities.

The DEQ knows companies are in the best position to understand their unique needs of quantity and quality for specific materials for their manufacturing processes. And manufacturers understand the transportation logistics of obtaining the necessary raw materials from their suppliers. That is why Michigan businesses are in the best position to develop the recycling systems of the future. The DEQ is facilitating a dialog among recyclers, businesses and local governments to make recycling in Michigan a model system that other states seek to emulate.

To learn more about the recycling supply chain and how your business can help Michigan become a recycling leader, attend the Governor’s Recycling Summit on May 5 in Kalamazoo. If you have any ideas to grow recycling market development in Michigan or would like to learn more, contact Matthew Flechter, DEQ Recycling Market Development Specialist, at flechterm@michigan.gov or 517-614-7353.