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Detroit to launch largest recycling expansion as new Sustainable Action Agenda unveiled

KURT NAGL Via Crains Detroit


$1 million push to improve Detroit's recycling rates

Goal is to add 16,000 new households, 1,500 large buildings by 2020

Sustainability plan hatched after year of gathering data, resident input


A $1 million push to beef up Detroit's recycling program is a key element of the city's new Sustainable Action Agenda, which officials unveiled Friday.

Led by the city's first Office of Sustainability, the agenda is the culmination of a yearlong data collection and engagement period that garnered input from 6,800 residents, according to the city. The recycling improvement plan will satisfy a small part of the agenda, which includes 43 actions aimed at improving the livelihood of residents.

Mayor Mike Duggan announced the initiative Friday afternoon during a media event at the Department of Public Works solid waste yard near the city's incinerator, which stopped burning trash in March but is still a transfer site for garbage headed to landfills.

The effort includes the city's first recycling program for multifamily and commercial properties, said Joel Howrani Heeres, the city's first director of sustainability. By early 2020, officials hope to add 16,000 additional single-family homes to the city's recycling program, as well as 1,500 multifamily and commercial buildings and 150 parks and bus stops.

"Our goal is to increase the overall diversion rate for municipal solid waste," Heeres said.

Detroit launched its first recycling pilot program in 2011, but consistent curbside pickup wasn't implemented until 2014. Around 61,000 households in the city recycle through services provided by Toronto-based GFL Environmental Inc.

The program will be the "largest expansion of recycling in Detroit's history," according to a news release. It wouldn't cost residents more money or involve an increase in the GFL contract cost for the city, Heeres said. It's just a matter of educating residents and rolling out new recycling carts.

"Smart use of our resources is imperative, and we have to do it in ways that prioritize our health, environment, the vitality of our neighborhoods, and our ability to grow our economy so that all Detroiters have access to opportunity," Duggan said in the news release.

Heeres said about 4.5 percent of solid waste in the city is diverted from landfills to recycling. The goal is to expand that to 15 percent in four years and to 30 percent in 10 years.

The 1,500 large buildings targeted for recycling are solid waste customers of the Department of Public Works, which also offers recycling services and has the capacity to handle expansion, Heeres said. No new workers need to be hired to accommodate the program, but the Department of Public Works will get a new truck.

All Detroit's households can receive a recycling cart free of charge after attending a curbside recycling workshop with Zero Waste Detroit or Green Living Science, or they can obtain one by paying a one-time fee of $25 to GFL.

Outreach for the program will begin in the fall, with households and large building owners signing up through the end of the year, Heeres. Carts will be deployed by spring 2020.

Recycling expansion is being funded by city funding and grants, according to the release. An inquiry for more specific details was sent to a city spokesperson.

The Sustainability Action Agenda, which can be viewed on the city's website, includes 43 actions to achieve 10 goals centered on community health, affordable homes, clean neighborhoods, and creating an equitable, green city. The office started with 600 potential actions before whittling it down based on residents' suggestions.

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