- Michigan's Kent County is running out of landfill space and public works officials are warning residents that they need to do better at recycling. The county's 600,000 residents generate an estimated 1.8 million cubic yards of trash each year.
- A recent study estimated that 75% of the waste being dumped could be recycled. The state estimates that West Michigan loses $56 million worth of recyclables to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities each year.
- The county's new "Imagine Trash" campaign is asking residents to make a pledge that they'll recycle more. The goal is to reduce landfill waste 20% by 2020 and 90% by 2030.
Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality has estimated that the state sends $435 million of recyclable material to landfills every year. Governor Rick Snyder has made increasing the state's diversion rate from 15% to at least 30% a priority, but that target has been hard to reach.
As part of the state's "Trash Research Project" researchers dug through landfills last year — including Kent County's landfill — to discover what residents were throwing away. A full waste characterization study was published this year, which found that metal, glass, and plastic comprise a large portion of the easily recyclable material ending up in landfills.
Kent County introduced a single-stream recycling program in 2010 and has made public education a priority. The county has shown signs of progress with recycling rates and officials are hopeful the new urgency of their landfill situation will help raise awareness.
"It’s no longer acceptable to bury 1.3 million tons of waste in landfills every year," said Darwin Baas, Director of the Department of Public Works, to Fox 17. "There is broad community interest to move the pendulum the other way and, as a community, we’re going to transform the way we manage waste. We need to change."