Recycling has been, will continue to be, a personal choice

Residential recycling has been something we’ve heard quite a bit about in recent years, but recycling in the workplace hasn’t always been at the forefront of the discussion.

That’s unfortunate, considering the workplace is where many of us spend a good chunk of our time during the week and where a good amount of trash is produced every day.

If we’re being honest, Michigan’s recycling rates could use some improvement, and implementing more robust recycling programs at our places of business could help bring those figures up to where they should be.

Officials told us recently that Michigan’s recycling rate is still underperforming, with the state currently having the lowest recycling rate among the Great Lakes states. In early 2018, that rate was at 15% while neighboring Midwest states averaged 35%, a press release from the Governor’s Office noted.

But there has been an ongoing push at the state level to help Michigan be more competitive with recycling.

In 2018, then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed an executive directive requiring all state facilities to provide on-site recycling opportunities and announced the launch of Re:Source, an initiative that was to promote the use of recycled materials in economic and business opportunities across Michigan.

More recently, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy — formerly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — has revamped the recycling effort with its new campaign Know It Before You Throw It. More information on that can be found at recyclingraccoons.org.

But to create change at the state level, change often has to happen locally first.

According to what landfill officials said recently, Marquette County has just an 8% recycling rate.

To put it bluntly, that’s pretty pathetic.

Sure, the number of Marquette County homeowners and renters who bring recyclable materials out to the curb each week could be higher. But the number of businesses that have recycling programs can probably be higher too.

A lot of businesses recycle paper, or at least provide the avenue to do so, but not all those places offer recycling for plastics, aluminums and other rigids material.

Mining Journal Staff Writer Cecilia Brown highlighted one of the businesses that do offer that for our ongoing Living Green series, which appeared in Monday’s edition of The Mining Journal.

Vast, an insurance agency located along South Front Street in Marquette, has its Green Team, which aims to promote recycling in the 50-plus-employee office.

When it comes down to recycling, there will always be a personal responsibility behind doing it: Only you can put the plastic water bottle in the recycling bin instead of the trash can.

But creating that recycling program and system is relatively easy. All it really takes to get started is to set up a recycling container next to the waste receptacle in the office and designate a person to monitor it and transport it to the transfer station once every week or two.

The folks at Vast have gone even further in their efforts to improve recycling by tracking data and results, and reminding each other of the importance of recycling with their Fun Green Facts.

“The more we can help the environment at a local level, the more we can keep Marquette County beautiful,” said Alison Neumann, an account manager at Vast who helps with the recycling program there.

If we all take these small steps in the workplace, big results and improved recycling rates can be the outcome across our state, and that’s good news for the environment and the world.

Our area businesses can implement these programs, but remember it comes down to personal responsibility. You, dear reader, must choose to recycle that plastic water bottle instead of tossing it in the trash.