Michigan local leaders report widespread support for community recycling programs

March 15, 2023
Written By:
Daniel Rivkin, Ford School of Public Policy
Blue recycling bin. Image credit: Sigmund, Unsplash

A strong majority of Michigan local government leaders feel that good governance includes promoting environmental sustainability and “being green,” according to a survey of nearly 1,400 leaders across the state.

The survey found that fully 94% of Michigan local officials support local access to recycling in their communities. And nearly 90% believe their residents and their board or council members feel the same way, while almost two-thirds say their communities’ local businesses do too, including commercial, industrial or agricultural operations.

The survey is a special wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey as part of the Michigan Local Recycling Policy Project, supported by a grant through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The MPPS is conducted by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, which reports that Michigan has been making substantial progress in expanding recycling access and participation by residents statewide.

The state has increased its recycling by more than a third, from 14% statewide in 2014 to 19% as of 2021. Although this still lags behind the national average of 32%, Michigan has nearly doubled the number of households with available curbside recycling carts and drop-off sites since 2019, and has reported widespread increases in residents’ understanding recycling best practices.

CLOSUP’s report also cites other research that a new goal of boosting the state’s current recycling rate to 45% could add more than $33.8 billion to Michigan’s economy, including more than $9 billion in added labor income.

“The high levels of support for recycling services among the state’s local government leaders is also correlated with the belief that promoting environmental sustainability is an important aspect of local government leadership, a view shared by majorities of Democratic, Independent and Republican local leaders,” said MPPS project manager Debra Horner.

Among the benefits of recycling, local officials overwhelmingly agree that recycling programs can help protect clean water in Michigan and decrease litter and pollution in the local environment. A majority also believes recycling can help address global climate change, while nearly half believes that new state and regional recycling efforts could boost local economic development and job growth in their communities.

“Stretching back more than a decade, the MPPS has repeatedly asked Michigan’s local government officials whether they feel promoting environmental sustainability and ‘being green’ are important aspects of local government leadership,” said CLOSUP managing director Tom Ivacko. “Over the years, the survey has consistently found significantly more support than opposition to the idea. This survey shows that trend continuing.”