Here you will find definitions of terms commonly used throughout our website.
Waste- the unusable or undesriable byproducts during manufacture or after use of a product.
Recycling - the act of converting waste into reusable material(s).
"Green Scan"- this is the MRC's term for a special thought process that involves considering every aspect of a product's life before buying. For example: Do I need it? What is it made of? Is it sustainably sourced? What is it packaged in? Will I be able to recycle it (or the packaging) when I'm done? All of these questions can be answered fairly quickly once you become familiar with where the information is located on the products you usually buy, and there is almost always an alternative product that can pass a Green Scan.
Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) - a facility that receives, separates and prepares recyclables for sale to brokers, processors or manufacturers.
Product Stewardship - the consideration of environmental, health, and safety in the production, use and disposal of a product.
"Closing the loop" - this is often referred to as the last step in the recycling process. In actuality, closing the loop means the cycle starts all over again - the material is used, collected, processed, and purchased again.
Landfill - a location to dispose of waste materials by burying under soil.
Incinerator - a facility for reducing waste materials to ash by burning at high temperatures.
Single Stream Recycling - a method of collecting recyclables where all materials can be collected in a single container. They are then processed and sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility.
Dual Stream Recycling - a method of collecting recyclables where cans, bottles, etc are collected separately from paper products.
Curbside - a service usually provided by a waste hauler or the community itself where recyclables are collected in bins or carts from the curb, similar to waste collection.
Drop off site - a location maintained by a company or community that serves as a place for individuals to drop off their own recycling. These locations are usually free to use and hold multiple large dumpsters for different materials.
OCC- Old Corrugated Cardboard.
ONP- Old newspaper.
White Goods- Appliances.
Polystyrene- most commonly referred to as styrofoam.
Film plastic- plastic bags, shrink wrap, plastic wrap, packaging, etc.
Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing health, safety, environmental and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages. The producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers, retailers, and consumers, also play a role. Stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law. Stewardship effortt generally begin with the most toxic and/or voluminous of materials. There are many organizations dedicated to the advancement of product stewardship; Product Stewardship Institute, Upstream, the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a mandatory type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the requirement that the producer’s responsibility for their product extends to post-consumer management of that product and its packaging. There are two related features of EPR policy: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.
The Principles of Extended Producer Responsibility include key elements that should be included in all EPR legislation. Although these Principles will be applied differently by different jurisdictions, they are aspirational and considered best practice to achieve maximum results.
Producer Responsibility: Producers are required to design, manage, and finance programs for end-of-life management of their products and packaging as a condition of sale. These programs may or may not use existing collection and processing infrastructure. Programs should cover all products in a given category, including those from companies no longer in business and from companies that cannot be identified.
Level Playing Field: All producers within a particular product category have the same requirements, whether they choose to meet them individually or jointly with other producers.
Results-based: Producers have flexibility to design the product management system to meet the performance goals established by government, with minimum government involvement. Producer-managed systems must follow the resource conservation hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, and beneficially use, as appropriate. Products must be managed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment. Producers design and implement public education programs to ensure achievement of performance goals and standards established by government. All consumers have convenient access to collection opportunities without charge.
Transparency and Accountability: Government is responsible for ensuring that producer programs are transparent and accountable to the public.
Producer programs, including their development and the fate of products managed, provide opportunity for input by all stakeholders.
Roles for Government, Retailers and Consumers: Government is responsible for ensuring a level playing field for all parties in the product value chain to maintain a competitive marketplace with open access to all, for setting and enforcing performance goals and standards, for supporting industry programs through procurement, and for helping educate the public. Retailers only sell brands within a covered product category that are made by producers participating in an industry program, and are responsible for providing information to consumers on how to access the programs.
Consumers have a responsibility to reduce waste, reuse products, use take-back and other collection programs, and make appropriate purchasing decisions based on available information about product impacts and benefits.
See the following reports for more detailed information:
Elements of a Best In Class Recycling Program (PDF)
Sustainability Fee Fact Sheet (PDF)
The Product Stewardship Institute has a whole list of products being considered through this approach. These are some examples in Michigan:
Electronics, such as TVs computers, monitors, cell phones, and tablets, contain valuable metals and components that can be used again in another manufacturing process. But they also contain potentially hazardous cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, chromium, barium, beryllium and brominated flame-retardant components that can pollute water and air resources without proper disposal or recycling. E-waste did not even exist as a waste stream in 1989 and now it's one of the largest and growing exponentially. Michigan law requires manufacturers and distributors of electronic products to provide free and convenient recycling options for consumers.
Dell Reconnect teams up with Goodwill to provide recycling options for computers and TVs. The State Electronics Challange provides helpful information about reducing the environmentl impact of computers throughout their life. Retailers such as, Best Buy and Staples often offer periodic collections for the electronic products they sell. For other recycling and reuse resources, refer to Earth911 or call you local recycling contact.
Protect your privacy by removing your data from whatever you're donating or recycling with these handy tips.
The improper disposal of unused and outdated medicine is a growing threat in our medicine chests. Pharmaceutical abuse is on the rise and improper disposal is a threat to Michigan's fresh water. Old medicines should not be flushed nor, if possible, disposed in a landfill. Convenient collection programs will hold old pharmaceuticals until they can be transported to a certified hazardous waste incinerator. The Product Stewardship Institute provides a variety of links and resources for proper pharmaceutical disposal in Michigan. Product stewardship legislation requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to support and/or provide for the proper use and disposal of old medicines is being explored in other areas of the U.S. Call your local recycling contact for help taking care of your old medicines.
A product stewardship approach to paper and plastic packaging would require product manufacturers to play a role in the end-of-life management of the materials. This could result in voluntary efforts by manufacturers and their trade associations to directly educate and support more robust and successful recycling programs. Mandatory, or extended producer responsibility, efforts might translate into state dictated recycling goals that more equitably distribute the cost of end-of-life management of the material that ends up in our recycling bins. Learn more about packaging product stewardship.
Recycling is the act of converting waste into reusable materials. "Waste" is anything that is not used during a process or cycle. This section will go into detail about the types of waste most often produced, and how they can be recycled.
Common materials- Paper, plastic, cardboard, glass and metal: the most commonly recycled materials. Most communities will take these types of materials for recycling.
Special materials- Batteries, lightbulbs, medicines, electronics and household hazardous waste can be difficult to recycle and are often only accepted at certain events or locations. Automotive parts, clothing/shoes, books, furniture, and mattresses are often thrown away, but there are ways to recycle them.
Product Stewardship- There are many ways of taking into account the entire life cycle of a product. This is important for manufacturers, retailers and consumers when determining the environmental impact of that product.
FAQ- Frequently asked questions about recycling.
Games, quizzes and activity worksheets for kids! We are adding more every day. Keep checking back!
Reduce: don't use as much! Use only 1 paper towel to dry your hands, a lunchbox instead of paper bags, and write or draw on both sides of your paper! By reducing, you decrease the amount of stuff you have to throw away.
Reuse: use what you already have for the same or other purposes. You can make instruments or crafts out of things like paper towel or toilet paper tubes, milk jugs, paper bags, and other things you use every day! By reusing, you give your items a new life.
Recycle: turn your old things into new things! Paper, plastic, metal, glass, even electronics and appliances can be recycled into something new. By recycling, you make sure your waste doesn't end up in the landfill. In fact, it might end up back in your house- in the form of something new!
3 R's Coloring Page(PDF)
Recycle Everywhere in Canada made a great video showing what happens to recycled beverage containers!
In nature, nothing goes to waste. Take a tree, for example. It uses nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun to grow. Leaves fall and the tree eventually dies, returning those nutrients and energy to the soil for other organisms to use. The tree wastes nothing throughout it's life. We call these processes "cycles"because they are just that- a constant exchange of energy used to grow.
We, on the other hand, generate waste all the time. We have curbside service to pick up our waste and take it away, but where is away, exactly? Generally. away means being transported to a landfill or incinerator, both of which require more resources like land and energy to maintain the process of removing material from your curb.
By recycling, we operate in a more natural way. By recycling, what we waste is cycled back into useful products. Recycling isn't perfect; it requires resources, energy and facilities to maintain. It does, however, reduce the amount of material being stored in a landfill or burned in an incinerator.
Other benefits of recycling include:
Recycled products are all around us:
- Steel and aluminum cans often contain a large amount of recycled material. It takes about 5% of the energy to make these from recycled metal instead of raw materials.
- Glass containers often are made from recycled glass, saving energy.
- Many paper products, from tissue to office paper and newspapers, contain recycled content.
- And the list goes on! Many products contain recycled material, even if they are not labeled that way.
Recycling is not the only answer to our waste problems; consider these 3 solutions you may have heard of before:
Reduce so you don’t create waste in the first place
Reuse by finding new ways to use the same product
Recycle whatever you can to reduce energy use, create jobs, reduce habitat destruction and reduce green house gas emissions.
Please watch the following video produced by MRC Member Emmet County Recycling.
Explore our website for answers to your recycling questions. If you can't find what you're looking for, don't hesitate to contact our office!
Michigan Recycling Coalition
602 W. Ionia Lansing, MI 48933
PO Box 10070 Lansing, MI 48901