Economic Impact Potential and Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in Michigan is the result of the Michigan Municipal Solid Waste Characterization and Valuation Project, an effort launched last year to characterize economic and environmental opportunities available through recycling, composting and other waste diversion strategies.  Commonly known as trash or garbage, municipal solid waste (MSW) consists of the everyday items discarded from homes, schools, hospitals and businesses, excluding waste from industrial uses and construction sites.  Download the report here (PDF).  2_1_Michigan Muncipal solid waste_perc by weight_LG-01

This project was funded primarily through a $50,300 grant from the MDEQ.  In his 2012 special message on energy and the environment Governor Rick Snyder acknowledged the low recycling rate in Michigan and committed to creating a plan to improve that rate. In response, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) convened a stakeholder workgroup to begin a dialog to advance recycling in Michigan. One finding of that group was a need for more data and information to inform state and local decision makers.

This study provides information and analysis on the composition of municipal solid waste currently landfilled and incinerated in Michigan, and the economic value of this material.  Its findings are derived entirely from field studies, verifiable market prices for recycled commodities, and peer-reviewed academic studies.

A coalition led by West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum sampled nearly 10 tons of garbage from eight sites throughout Michigan.  Working with technical consultant Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, & Huber, Inc., WMSBF has created a waste characterization report for local communities and the state, providing much-needed data to decision makers on the materials sent to Michigan landfills and incinerators.  That information and commodity pricing data provided by WMSBF member companies allowed Grand Valley State University to perform an analysis of the potential economic impact to the state.MI top materials_2_2_LG-01

WMSBF partners opening their facilities to the project include Republic Services, Kent County Department of Public Works and Muskegon County. Members that provided commodity information and other support include Rapid Green Group, Padnos, Valley City Electronic Recycling, Organicycle, New Soil and My Green Michigan.

  • Study sampled waste from eight sites across Michigan, sorting approximately 10 tons of material
  • Michigan garbage contains an estimated $368 million of recyclable material
  • Capturing this material would have a $399 million economic impact, or an estimated 2,619 jobs
  • West Michigan garbage contains an estimated $52 million of recyclable material
  • In communities with recycling programs, 42% of garbage is “easily recyclable”
  • Food waste accounted for 13.6% of garbage, the largest source of divertible material
  • Corrugated cardboard a “high-volume, high-value opportunity” material at 8.4%, but more prevalent in commercial waste (10.5% commercial to 5.8% residential)

The study concludes that efforts to increase the recycling rate in Michigan should first focus on the 42% of materials that have market value, which would include all standard recyclable commodities but glass, plus textiles.MI_total value commod_4_3_LG -01

To achieve the stated goal of doubling the Michigan recycling rate to 30%, the state must increase the quantity of diverted material by approximately 1.5 million tons per year through a combination of recovery and source reduction, according to the study.  To accomplish this, it offered the following recommendations:

  1. Aggressively promote efforts to increase recovery of corrugated cardboard, prioritizing commercial audiences.
  2. Support efforts to increase availability and usage of conventional recycling programs with a goal to increase recovery of non-corrugated paper products, metal, and high-value plastic resins HDPE and PET.
  3. Through recovery or source reduction, decrease the quantity of electronic waste disposed of in Michigan landfills by half.
  4. Promote source reduction and diversion of food waste.
  5. Promote source reduction of low-value plastic resins.
  6. Initiate efforts to increase recycling channels for textiles and promote availability of textile recycling.
  7. Educate the public on the financial difficulties of recycling and waste diversion.
  8. Pursue opportunities for further study.

The study also highlighted unique findings regarding electronic waste, deposit bottle containers, yard waste and textile recycling.  In addition, the study includes regional reports for West Michigan, Kent County and Muskegon County, which dispose of an estimated $52 million, $27.8 million and $7.2 million worth of recyclable material each year, respectively.

Download report here (PDF): Michigan MSW Characterization and Valuation 2016

Upcoming Event: WEBINAR –  Economic Impact Potential and Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in Michigan

Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of WMSBF will present the project including the process WMSBF used to characterize the municipal solid waste stream, the findings, analysis and recommendations of the report. He will also discuss how municipalities, businesses and community partners are already using the data to support their recycling initiatives and educational goals, including an ambitious campaign launched by Kent County Department of Public Works in direct response to the study.

This webinar will be of interest to recycling program directors, waste management and recycling professionals, waste management and recycling policy makers, anyone interested in waste and recycling in Michigan.

Further information and registration details here.  Consider joining to learn more about the municipal waste stream being landfilled in Michigan and the opportunities identified through this study.

Media Kit

News release

Fact Sheet:  Michigan

Fact sheet: West Michigan

Fact Sheet:  Kent County

Fact Sheet:  Muskegon County

Figures from the report are available for use in presentations and articles (properly cited) at the following links.

Michigan Figures
Top Materials in Michigan MSW (5% or Greater)
Michigan Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Composition
Composition of Plastic/Paper/Organic Waste in Michigan MSW
Michigan MSW by Ease of Recycling
Between State Comparison of MSW Disposed
Total Value of Michigan MSW Material Disposed
Total Value of Michigan MSW Commodities Disposed

West Michigan Figures
West Michigan Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Composition
Top Materials in W. Michigan MSW Composition
Total Value of West Michigan MSW Material Disposed
Total Value of West Michigan MSW Commodities Disposed

Kent County Figures
Kent County Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Composition
Top Materials in Kent County MSW Composition
Total Value of Kent County MSW Material Disposed
Total Value of Kent County MSW Commodities Disposed

Muskegon County Figures
Muskegon County Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Composition
Top Materials in Muskegon County MSW Composition
Total Value of Muskegon County MSW Material Disposed
Total Value of Muskegon County MSW Commodities Disposed