Oakland Press: Bill will help increase Michigan’s recycling rate, benefitting our economy and environment

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Michigan can do better in its recycling efforts. The state’s current estimated recycling rate for residential household waste is 15 percent — 20 percent less than the national average. But unfortunately this rate is just an approximation based on estimates, because there currently isn’t a system in place for collecting the relevant data to determine an accurate rate.

To help remedy this situation, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 507, which will help establish a recycling rate and put in place a system to encourage a more robust statewide recycling program.

The origin of this bill can be traced back to 2012. That year, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a Special Message on Energy and the Environment. In his address, the governor charged the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) with developing a statewide comprehensive recycling plan.

The DEQ initiated discussions on recycling with conservation groups, waste services providers, recycling experts, retailers and grocers, and local governments. Discussions focused on what drove successful programs.

Participants agreed that Michigan needs to measure recycling efforts, educate consumers on how and why to recycle, grow recycling markets and business, and ensure that consumers have convenient access to recycling opportunities.

Based on the findings from the DEQ, in conversation with statewide groups, in April 2014 the governor announced a statewide plan designed to increase residential recycling access statewide. The nine-member Michigan Recycling Council was formed to guide the plan’s implementation.

The goal of the plan is to increase the recycling rate for residential household waste from its current estimated rate of 15 percent. A recent study concluded that more than $435 million in recyclable metal, glass, paper and plastics goes from Michigan households to Michigan landfills each year.

SB 507 will create a standardized system for reporting quantities of recycled materials, and it will provide for data collection that will ultimately enable the DEQ to establish a baseline recycling rate for the state.

The bill will require annual, no-fee registration for establishments that recycle certain types of materials. The goal is to measure the amount of recycling of materials that are separated from both residential household and commercial waste in the state of Michigan. Certain materials are expressly exempted under the legislation.

Once the state has an accurate measurement of the quantity, type, and location of recycling in the state, policies that increase residential recycling statewide can be considered for effective implementation.

This legislation will help to provide a foundation for taking additional policy steps to help grow Michigan’s statewide recycling rate. This is not only good for the environment, but it will help Michiganders save millions of dollars in manufacturing costs and create jobs throughout the state.

The Senate passed SB 507 in a bipartisan, nearly unanimous vote. It is now before the Michigan House Committee on Natural Resources.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: Bills would require the testing of drinking water at Michigan schools

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

The top priority of state government is the public safety of its residents. This includes the safety of our food and water. Recent events in Flint regarding lead in the city’s drinking water have raised the awareness of the need for the state and our communities to ensure we all have safe water.

Unhealthy levels of lead have been shown in many studies to affect brain function and development. In addition, children who have been exposed to higher levels of lead are more likely to have cognitive and behavioral problems during development than those who have not been exposed to these levels.

Recently introduced legislation now before the Senate Committee on Government Operations would specifically address the issue of safe drinking water in our communities.

Senate Bills 724 – 726 would do the following:
•    Require drinking water testing at the faucet at least annually for the presence of lead and copper in all public and private schools connected to a municipal water supply system.
•    Require the supplier of drinking water to a school to collect the samples and have them analyzed according to the standards of testing currently prescribed under state law.
•    Require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to post on its website the testing results and an assessment of the drinking water infrastructure that is used to provide drinking water to public and non-public schools in the state.
•    Create a seven-member Safe Schools Drinking Water Task Force to review and recommend any changes to the department’s water sampling and testing protocol.
The Task Force would consist of a member of the DEQ; three members appointed by the Senate Majority Leader consisting of a public health official, an administrator of the pediatric unit of a hospital, and a resident; and three members appointed by the Speaker of the House consisting of a representative of the Department of Health and Human Services, a local school board member, and a resident.
•    Require source water testing for the presence of lead and copper prior to the hookup of any public water supplier if the provider of the water changes the source of the public water supply.

Neither state nor federal law requires the testing of drinking water at all public and private schools. These bills will help to provide greater assurance that drinking water standards are met in our schools.

This is the least we can do to help ensure that we are all drinking water that is safe.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader and a member of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.