Kalamazoo is Launching a New Recycling Campaign in May

Published on May 08, 2024

A boost of new resources from the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership will encourage Kalamazoo residents to step up their recycling game and keep the Mitten State on the leading edge of recycling innovation

The City of Kalamazoo is kicking off in May two comprehensive recycling education and outreach programs to help residents in over 13,900 single-family and multifamily households bolster their recycling efforts.

The dual campaigns spearheaded by the city’s Department of Public Services (DPS) are funded with $304,500 in grants and technical support from the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership. The aim is to promote more and better recycling while decreasing the amount of contaminated materials that are inadvertently deposited in recycling carts.

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” said Kalamazoo Public Services Director James Baker.

“Recycling properly saves our taxpayers money by reducing the cost of sending recyclable materials to the landfill, supports jobs, and improves the health of the environment,” Baker said. “We know residents want to recycle the right way and through this campaign, we are providing them with the tools to do just that.”


Single-Family Recycling Efforts

To encourage single-family Kalamazoo residents to recycle more materials and more often, households that have a recycling cart but are not participating in collection will receive an in-home recycling kit, making it easier to transport recyclables to the curbside cart for collection. In addition, nearly 13,000 Kalamazoo homes currently enrolled in the single-family curbside recycling program can expect to receive information in the mail about accepted materials, their collection schedule, and messaging to help them recycle with more confidence.

The 2024 single-family project builds upon a previous project, which started through funding and technical support for last year’s cart-tagging recycling initiative as part of The Recycling Partnership’s “Feet on the Street” initiative with EGLE.

That push provided Kalamazoo residents in single-family households personalized and real-time curbside recycling education and feedback about what is and isn’t accepted for recycling. Findings from the 2023 campaign provided DPS officials with information about Kalamazoo households’ unique recycling needs to help develop new, targeted interventions to continue improving recycling in the community.  

As a result of the 2023 project, the city wanted to make two improvements for single family recycling – standardize Kalamazoo’s recycling carts and encourage more residents to recycle and recycle better.

Standardizing the recycling carts happened earlier this year. Kalamazoo residents may have previously seen a wide variety of carts with varying colors being set out for collection by their neighbors. The City of Kalamazoo worked with Republic Services, the recycling hauler, to ensure that all residents participating in the program have dark blue recycling carts with light blue lids to help the neighborhood know when it is recycling day. This project also ensured that going forward, all newly-enrolled households will receive these standardized recycling carts along with education about the program when their cart arrives.

“The Recycling Partnership is pleased to continue working with EGLE and Michigan communities to improve residential recycling across the state,” said Samantha Longshore, Community Program Manager at The Recycling Partnership. “With this project, we’re providing tailored tools and outreach that meet people where they’re at to improve recycling confidence and participation in the local program.”

Kalamazoo’s single-family project is based on the success of The Recycling Partnership’s Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact’s Cincinnati, OH project where similar initiatives resulted in increased participation in the recycling program. In Cincinnati, 40% of households who were not previously recycling started recycling after receiving education and resources. The project also resulted in more recyclable materials being captured with 62% of targeted households setting out more frequently on average and increasing recycling route tons by 94%. The Partnership hopes to achieve similar results in the City of Kalamazoo.

If residents don’t already have a curbside recycling cart one may be requested by completing a quick online form at KalamazooCity.org/recycle-it or by calling 311 or (269) 337-8000.


Multifamily Recycling Efforts

In the City of Kalamazoo, residential properties with five or more units can recycle, too. A variety of container sizes and collection schedules are available to meet a property’s needs. In an effort to bolster this equitable service across the City of Kalamazoo, beginning this spring, a program focused on providing additional recycling infrastructure and education to over 980 households in multifamily properties will launch in the City of Kalamazoo.

The customized program will provide resources to multifamily properties and increase residents’ knowledge of what is and isn’t recyclable and how to participate in the recycling program. Multi-unit recycling collects the same materials as the curbside program and offers 24-hour access to residents. If you’re not already recycling, ask your property manager to start today. If you manage a multi-unit property, call 311 or (269) 337-8000 to offer recycling for your tenants.

This year, more than $924,000 in grant funding will be allocated to nine recycling program grantees, including Kalamazoo, representing more than 493,000 households across the Great Lakes state.

This is the third phase of collaboration between Michigan EGLE and The Partnership since 2019. The effort thus far has assisted over 200 communities, representing more than 2.6 million residents, and disseminated $1.4 million in grants throughout Michigan to improve residential recycling and reduce contamination by as much as 50%.

“EGLE is excited to continue working with The Recycling Partnership and Michigan communities to continue to improve residential recycling through these quality improvement projects,” said Emily Freeman, Recycling Specialist with EGLE’s Materials Management Division.

“We all have a role to play in the circular economy and these grants will help even more Michigan communities engage with their residents and improve the quality of recyclable materials collected in curbside and drop-off programs across Michigan,” Freeman said.

The activities align with Michigan’s national award-winning Know It Before You Throw It campaign, aimed at increasing the state’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025.

The funding is part of EGLE’s strategy to support recycling infrastructure, improve the quality of recyclable materials, and promote market development using the Renew Michigan Fund, which the state Legislature created in 2019 in a bipartisan move to bolster the state’s recycling efforts. Gov. Whitmer and the state Legislature are committed to ultimately raising Michigan’s recycling rate to 45% by 2030, exceeding the national recycling rate of 32%.

Recycling in the Great Lakes State is now at an all-time high. The total amount of residential recycled materials being reported for fiscal year (FY) 2022 was 620,494 tons – that’s over 66,000 tons more than the previous new record set the year prior. Materials Michiganders recycled last year would fill the football stadiums at Ford Field, Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium and the Big House at the University of Michigan. Michiganders recycled over 339,000 tons of paper and paper products during FY 2022, more than 154,000 tons of metals, more than 71,000 tons of glass, and over 45,000 tons of plastics and plastic products.

More Michiganders than ever have access to recycling services. Since 2021, EGLE in collaboration with The Recycling Partnership have rolled out 48,468 new curbside recycling carts to communities around the state.

The expanded access is helping Michigan to steadily increase its recycling rate from what was historically the lowest in the Great Lakes region. The rate has risen from 14.25% prior to 2019, to 19.3% last year and now exceeds 21%, based on EGLE’s new 2023 analysis.

Recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing industries in Michigan create 72,500 jobs and contribute more than $17 billion to the state’s total economic output, EGLE data shows.

EGLE’s 2023 data analysis reflects the state’s improved recycling performance is helping Michigan advance toward the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, commissioned by Gov. Whitmer as a broad-based roadmap to a sustainable, carbon-neutral Michigan economy by 2050. Carbon neutrality is the global science-based benchmark for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most devastating and costly impacts of climate change.

Learn more about EGLE’s “Know It Before You Throw It” recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoon Squad. The campaign’s aim is to increase recycling and promote best practices to reduce contamination of materials with unsuitable or nonrecyclable items in recycling bins and at drop-off sites. EGLE data show four in five Michiganders report taking action and changing their recycling behavior for the better following EGLE’s campaign.

Learn more about what is and is not acceptable to recycle in Kalamazoo at KalamazooCity.org/recycle-it.


About The Recycling Partnership

At The Recycling Partnership, we are solving for circularity. As a mission-driven NGO, we are committed to advancing a circular economy by building a better recycling system. We mobilize people, data, and solutions across the value chain to reduce waste and our impact on the environment while also unlocking economic benefits. We work on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs; we partner with companies to achieve packaging circularity, increase access to recycled materials, and meet sustainability commitments; and we work with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of our residential recycling system and advance a circular economy. We foster public-private partnerships and drive positive change at every step of the recycling and circularity process. Since 2014, we have diverted 1 billion pounds of new recyclables from landfills, avoided more than 948,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and driven significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at recyclingpartnership.org. 


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