Michigan local leaders’ views on recycling: current challenges and opportunities for improvement

April 2022

This report is the second in a series on recycling issues in Michigan communities. It presents the views of Michigan’s local government leaders on challenges their jurisdictions face and opportunities to introduce, expand, or improve recycling services. The findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the fall 2021 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), as part of the Michigan Local Recycling Policy Project.

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Key findings

  • As with many types of public services, challenges for recycling services are relatively common across Michigan communities. Among jurisdictions that have at least some recycling services today, the most common challenges include the cost of recycling (reported by 46% of jurisdictions), improper recycling practices by users (40%), and a lack of end markets for recycled materials (39%). Statewide, just 9% report facing no challenges of any kind to their local recycling.
    • For those with recycling challenges, the state’s smaller jurisdictions are most likely to say costs are their top challenge, while jurisdictions with over 10,000 residents are most likely to rank a lack of end markets for recycled materials as their greatest challenge. 
  • Among jurisdictions with no recycling services, the most common factors cited for the lack of services are costs (55%), lack of processing infrastructure (35%), and lack of staffing for waste and recycling services (31%).
    • Smaller jurisdictions are more likely to rank lack of processing infrastructure as a particularly significant barrier, while larger jurisdictions are more likely to identify staffing issues.
  • In order to improve or expand recycling, additional funding (73%) and additional local or regional partnerships (64%) were the most frequently cited resources needed by jurisdictions that currently have recycling services available. In order to introduce recycling, these same resources were also the top mentions by those with no recycling available to residents today. In addition, a sizeable percentage of these leaders were unsure about the potential impact of other resources, which may provide an opportunity for outreach and information on overcoming barriers to recycling services in underserved communities.

Improper Recycling Practices


In Michigan jurisdictions that have at any recycling services, 40% say improper recycling practices are a challenge  Fall 2021 MPPS

Barriers to recycling


Among jurisdictions with no recycling services, more than half cited costs as a factor in the lack of services Fall 2021 MPPS

Expanding Recycling Services


Many jurisdictions that currently have recycling services cited local or regional partnerships as resource that would help expand services Fall 2021 MPPS