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Program seeks partners to unlock recycling potential in Detroit

Donations of $25 or more will put new curbside program in reach for city residents
Apr 22, 2015
Curbside recycling is finally available throughout the City of Detroit, but the $25 fee for a recycling cart is a significant hurdle for many residents. A donation program launched today by the Zero Waste Detroit coalition and the Michigan Environmental Council aims to help put recycling within reach for everyone who wants to participate.

The program is simple: Individuals, businesses and other organizations that want to help Detroit residents enjoy the benefits of recycling can visit an online donation page and make a contribution of $25 or more. Every penny of each donation will go directly toward the purchase of a new cart for a family that wants to recycle but indicates a need for assistance to pay the fee.

As fiscal agent for Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD), the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) will process the donations and work with ZWD, the city and its waste haulers to distribute carts to households that have expressed a desire to recycle.

"Twenty-five dollars might not sound like much, but a lot of folks in the city are struggling to make ends meet, and anything non-essential just doesn't make it into the monthly budget," said Sandra Turner-Handy, MEC community engagement director and a lifelong Detroiter.

"This program allows anyone to play a role in Detroit's transformation and re-energize residents to take part in their hometown's rebirth as a thriving, sustainable city."

Detroit was long the largest American city without a municipal recycling program. Years of advocacy by ZWD members led to the creation of a curbside recycling pilot program in 2010. When city officials negotiated new waste-handling contracts in 2014, curbside recycling became available citywide on an opt-in basis for all single-family homes. A one-time $25 fee is required to cover the cost of each 64-gallon cart.

"Citywide curbside recycling is a huge opportunity for Detroit, but only if all the residents who want to participate are able," said ZWD Convener Margaret Weber. "I hope many Michigan businesses and individuals will chip in to help make recycling part of the city's culture. Their one-time donation will in effect be like making a new contribution every time the recycling truck makes a pickup."

Weber noted that recycling saves energy, conserves natural resources and -- according to a report from the Michigan Recycling Coalition -- creates four jobs in the recycling industry for every waste disposal job created if the material is not recycled. Increasing participation in the curbside program also will divert more recyclable materials away from landfills and from waste incineration, which is a major source of air pollution and nuisance odors in Detroit.

"Waste incineration is one reason Detroit residents suffer from asthma death rates that are about twice the state average," said Ahmina Maxey, ZWD community outreach coordinator. "Reclaiming more recyclable materials will go a long way in improving air quality and public health in the city."

Zero Waste Detroit is a coalition of over twenty community, environmental and environmental justice organizations whose goal is to move the City of Detroit to a solid waste management system that gives top priority to recycling and materials recovery, and away from waste incineration.

Established in 1980, the Michigan Environmental Council is a Lansing-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit coalition of more than 60 Michigan environmental, health and faith groups dedicated to achieving positive change through the political process. MEC is a founding member of ZWD.
Andy McGlashen: 517-420-1908
Photos available upon request
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