Michigan: Regulate Your Recycling

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an enormous mass of “marine debris” between the West coast of North America and Japan. According to CNN, scientists estimate that the “trash island” is nearly the size of Texas. With climate change and other environmental concerns at the forefront of international conversation, the appropriate time to address environmental responsibility has come.

I have been a part of the American workforce for nearly ten years now. Over this time, I have held numerous positions at several companies. I have worked for eight different companies at several locations in the state of California and I have been employed by five different companies in the state of Michigan. What I found to be particularly disturbing was that every single location I worked at in the state of California had a recycling program or a recycling dumpster. In stark contrast, not a single business that has employed me in the state of Michigan has a recycling program. I found myself asking, “Why are Michigan’s companies behaving in such an environmentally irresponsible way?”

The answer to that question comes in the form of CalRecycle, California’s mandatory commercial recycling program, which is largely responsible for the decrease in the amount of waste that goes straight to California landfills. Especially when considering the absence of any such program in Michigan, California is way ahead in the recycling game. The fact of the matter is that corporations are concerned with the profit of their shareholders and not necessarily the environmental well-being of the world that we live in. The point of government is to protect its citizens from those who would do them harm. If the state of Michigan does not step in to create laws that regulate companies recycling, it is unlikely that they will take on the responsibility of their own accord.

Part of the argument against this type of legislation is that it’s another example of government overreaching in the free market. My response to this type of thinking is that the government should be doing its fair share of the work. Government recycling programs are social programs similar to trash collection. Companies in California are able to recycle their waste because they have access to recycling programs provided to them by the state and local governments. We can’t expect a company or small business to recycle if there is no program in place to collect these materials, but we can demand that the government step in to help out in this regard. The state of Michigan needs to act to ensure that it is doing its part to create and support more environmentally sustainable industries, because right now, it’s doing nothing.