Data, Analytics, and Cameras in the Michigan City Recycling Game

The City of East Lansing, Michigan has joined the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE); The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia; and nearly 100 other Michigan communities to help residents recycle more materials more efficiently.

Starting in September, a six-month pilot project began with the participation of the city, EGLE, The Recycling Partnership; Prairie Robotics, Regina, Saskatchewan; and Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

The project is a modified version of the Recycling Partnership’s Feet on the Street cart labeling initiative, a community-wide project to improve the quality of curbside cart recycling by providing residents personalized, real-time curbside recycling training and feedback. Traditionally, this is done by someone tagging carts on the street if contaminants are found there.

In East Lansing, instead of someone reviewing the contents and placing a tag on curbside recycling carts, Prairie Robotics will retrofit the city’s recycling collection trucks with camera technology. These cameras will document if contamination enters the recycling cart, and residents will receive a letter with information on what and how to properly recycle.

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” says East Lansing environmental scientist Cliff Walls. “We are delighted that the city has been selected for this first-of-its-kind project in the United States by EGLE, The Recycling Partnership and Prairie Robotics. Recycling properly saves our taxpayers money by reducing costly damage to equipment as well as the expense of sending contaminated, otherwise recyclable materials to landfill. We know residents want to recycle the right way, and through this campaign, we’re providing feedback to help them do just that. »

With a $28,000 grant and technical support from the Recycling Partnership, East Lansing will implement a comprehensive education and awareness strategy.

“The Recycling Partnership is excited to continue working with communities in EGLE and Michigan to improve residential recycling statewide,” said Cassandra Ford, community program manager for the Recycling Partnership. “On this project, in particular, in East Lansing, [with] With the addition of Prairie Robotics technology and Ohio State University providing statistical analysis of the results, we expect to receive full conclusions on the effectiveness of combining camera technology with awareness to improve recycling.

This year, more than $815,000 in grants are being awarded to 14 recycling program beneficiaries, representing more than 369,000 households across Michigan. These 14 grantees are building on the impact of a 2021 project with a similar goal to improve recycling across Michigan, which reached 100 communities and expanded Michigan’s award-winning “Know It Before You Throw It” campaign, aimed at increasing the state’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025.

“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, Division of Management Recycling Specialist. materials from EGLE. “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 through collection and recycling programs. collecting across Michigan.”

Developed by The Recycling Partnership, the traditional Feet on the Street program has been implemented in more than 70 communities across the country, with some communities seeing a 57% decrease in non-recyclable materials in recycling and an average increase of 27% the overall capture of quality recyclable materials.

Since 2014, The Recycling Partnership claims to have diverted 500 million pounds of new recyclable material from landfills, saved 968 million gallons of water, avoided more than 500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in significant reductions targeted contamination rates.

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