11-19-15-Recycling rates in Michigan and other states

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reduce Reuse Recycle has been a part of the American lexicon for 45 years. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who originated the campaign, it is generally accepted that the phrase emerged from the first Earth Day Celebration on April 22, 1970. However, the philosophy of reusing resources and the economic value of recycling old materials into new products is centuries old. The Japanese recycled paper one thousand years ago and American colonists incorporated old cotton and linen rags into new paper before 1700.

Recycling has been a key component of many war efforts. Paul Revere and George Washington urged patriots to collect scrap metal including old chains, worn iron tools, and cooking utensils, which were melted down and recast into munitions. During World War I the federal government established the Waste Reclamation Service that advocated “Don’t Waste Waste– Save It!” The government also started to scientifically manage the nation’s natural resources during this period. Between 1939 and 1945 a nationwide salvage effort collected millions of tons of tin, steel, rubber, aluminum, and paper for reuse during World War II.

Sadly, World War II recycling efforts were offset by post-war US economics and marketing strategies focused on new disposable products and a “throw-away” culture that dramatically increased energy consumption, resource depletion, and the flow of solid waste into landfills.  Earth Day was a national wake-up call that galvanized national environmental awareness and stimulated grassroots initiatives and legislation to conserve natural resources.

On November 2, 1976 Michigan voters approved the state’s Bottle Bill, which requires the reporting of containers sold and redeemed by bottlers and distributors and implemented the country’s highest container deposit (and refund.)  According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the bottle bill, in 1990, was reducing Michigan’s solid waste stream by 6-8 percent each year. Michigan currently has approximately 200 curbside recycling programs, including one in Troy, serving 25 percent of the population. Of all the states with bottle bills, Michigan has the highest recycling rate.1


Graph compares redemption rates in states that have enacted “Bottle Bills”


1 https://www.bottlebill.org/about/benefits/waste.htm




To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at ed@thvmail.org.

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