When does recycling work?



Recycling happens when there is a positive economic value on the material to be recycled. For example, if it costs more to cut down trees to make paper than it does to process recycled paper back into other paper products, then there will be a demand for recycled paper.  If, however, making paper from trees costs less than making paper from recycled paper then recycling is much less likely to happen.  This basic economic principle changes when state or local policies are enacted to influence the behavior of individuals, businesses, institutions and government to have a positive impact on the environment and/or economy. 


Where does recycling happen?

  • Communities with populations greater than 10,000 or population densities greater than 300 per square mile, should provide curbside collection of recyclables.  Those services can be provided directly through the municipality or in contract with a private sector service provider.  In smaller communities, local, convenient drop-off recycling opportunities should be provided whether directly by the community or in contract with a private sector service provider.
  • Your county’s recycling contact can provide information about the recycling, composting and household hazardous waste collection opportunities in your community.  Click the image below to be redirected to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's website, where you can find the local recycling contact for your county.
  • Not finding convenient recycling opportunities in your community? Contact your municipal government offices and/or local waste collection service providers and let them know you’d like to recycle in your community. Citizen calls to decision-makers make an impact.  Interested in getting something started?  This Master Recycler Manual will help you understand the necessary steps.
  • Many businesses, manufacturers and institutions have developed sustainability policies and started in-house recycling programs. Participating in these programs saves money. Use the Master Business Recycler Manual to help get a program started. 


How does recycling work?

  • Recycling is simply a matter of separating recyclables from trash and preparing them for collection by local haulers.  Haulers transport collected recyclables to a local processing or material recovery facility (MRF), where these recyclables are further separated and baled into specific commodity categories.  Recycling programs differ across Michigan.  Communities often offer different services and collect different materials, based on their relationships with the companies that are willing to purchase the recycled commodities they produce.
  • It’s important to know what kind of materials are collected and recycled in your community, so you can contribute in a positive way. If community residents and businesses are including materials that may be recyclable in a program that does not accept those items, the resulting contamination can become a serious enough issue where entire loads of recyclables have to be landfilled.
  • Single-stream recycling is a relatively new way to manage recyclables.  All materials are placed loosely in one curbside cart for quick and easy curbside pick-up and taken to a modern material recovery facility (MRF) that sorts all the material for baling and selling.  Single-stream recycling has become popular because it reduces collection costs, while increasing the number and types of materials that can be collected at the curb. Single-stream programs often require larger recycling carts to accommodate the increased volumes of recyclables. However, single-stream recycling programs aren’t available and don’t make sense for every community and that’s why it’s important to know how recycling works best in your community.