Michigan lawmakers thought they were acting in the best interests of state residents when they passed a package of new recycling mandates in 2022. Perhaps they still think so. But as the state begins rolling out the new rules, they are already running into roadblocks. It is becoming ever more clear that the rules lay bare the real problem with municipal recycling: government.
The current recycling rate in Michigan is somewhere around 19%. Meanwhile, the national average is about 34%. State lawmakers want to see their counties approaching a 30% rate by 2029. They expect to see 45% at some point thereafter.
How do they plan to achieve such lofty goals? By forcing counties to either modify their current recycling plans or come up with new plans designed to get people to recycle. Here’s the thing: the state is forcing the counties to recycle via mandate. You can bet counties will turn around and force resident participation through their own mandates.
Already There Are Delays
The new recycling rules in Michigan take effect at the end of March 2023. By the letter of the law, counties will have until late September 2023 to submit their plans to the state or allow the state to write plans for them. But guess what? That is not going to happen. The mandates are already being delayed.
The state will not have its official recycling guidelines in place until January 2024, at the earliest. That is nine months after the guidelines were supposed to be ready. The delay means counties will not have to submit their plans until the summer of 2024. So why is it taking so long? Bureaucracy.
By its own admission, the state cannot get the ball rolling because the former director of the Department of Natural Resources resigned at the end of 2022. The bureaucratic machine that is the state of Michigan will prevent the quick hiring of a new director. And once that director is brought on board, the same bureaucratic machine will prevent them from coming up with recycling guidelines in a timely manner.
Bureaucracy Is the Big Problem
In case you haven’t figured it out, bureaucracy is the big problem with municipal recycling. Bureaucracy is time-consuming and complicated. It is inefficient. It is expensive. Government is incapable of doing anything in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost. Everything government entities do take too long and cost too much.
By contrast, it is in the private sector’s best interests to be as lean and efficient as possible. Efficiency and lean financial practices increase profits. On the other hand, government bloat leads to financial losses.
Private Recycling Actually Works
While Michigan counties struggle under the weight of new mandates, a company known as Seraphim Plastics will keep purchasing industrial plastic waste from Michigan companies. They will recycle that plastic waste at a profit. And by the way, Seraphim will do the same thing in six other states.
Private recycling works. It has worked for a long time. Give entrepreneurs a way to make money by recycling and they will do it. It is as simple as that. They will charge for their services, which many taxpayers simply cannot abide by, but they will accomplish the task at hand: keeping recycled materials out of landfills.
Michigan’s new recycling rules may or may not achieve the desired results. Time will tell. But one way or the other, the rules will be an ongoing demonstration of why municipal recycling has pretty much been a dismal failure since its inception. Do not bet on politicians learning anything from it.