A recent update to the Michigan Gap Analysis, which was conducted by RRS (Resource Recycling Systems) and looked at factors influencing materials recovery in the state, indicates approximately 38% of material disposed of in Michigan (or 3 million tons annually) is organic and compostable.

Of organic material going to landfill, the largest portion (46%) is food waste. In contrast, yard waste accounts for just 9% of organics going to landfill; the high recovery rate of that material can be attributed to Michigan’s yard waste landfill ban that was established in 1995 and led to the development of organics recovery infrastructure in the state.

Michigan’s largest gap in organics recovery infrastructure is the collection and processing of food waste – only 10 out of 109 reporting composting facilities in the state accept food waste. Furthermore, data indicates that only 1% of all current organics recycling is food waste. A robust food waste circular economy must include elements of prevention and rescue/recovery, as well as recycling.

NextCycle Michigan, an initiative of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), is providing support to businesses, local governments and organizations to develop and improve the recovery of materials and recycled-content manufacturing in the state to move closer to Michigan’s 45% material recovery target. Organics is a key area of focus for the program, particularly through the NextCycle Michigan Food, Liquids, and Organic Waste Systems (FLOWS) Innovation Challenge.

In the initiative, teams are chosen from a competitive pool of applicants with projects focused on improving organics recovery in the state. These teams receive mentorship, direct consulting support and matchmaking with partners and funders to help grow their businesses and projects. The following teams were selected into the 2021 FLOWS Cohort:

  • Cocoa Corp (Holland, Mich.): Composting medium-density fiberboard with food and yard waste to produce a product for agricultural use.
  • ReMark Composting Solutions (Detroit): Sustainable compost solution in Detroit in partnership with Wayne State University, as a model for institutional food waste diversion and community-based composting.
  • Savormetrics (Southfield, Mich.): AI-driven sensing solution for food and agriculture industries to prevent waste at food production, processing and retail.
  • SEEDS (Traverse City, Mich.): Scaling organics collection and composting in the greater Grand Traverse region.
  • Unlimited Recycling (Richmond, Mich.): Scaling institutional and commercial organic collection services in Southeast Michigan.
  • Urban Ashes (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Developing circular urban wood supply chains in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County (wood waste is the second largest category of organics disposed of in Michigan).
  • Wormies (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Scaling food, yard, and agricultural waste collection and vermicomposting operations in West Michigan, producing premium compost products.

To meet Michigan’s 45% recovery rate goal, the state needs to increase organics recovery 400% through improvements to collection, processing and end markets. Current and future NextCycle Michigan team projects will contribute to various areas of the food waste circular economy via education, waste tracking, food rescue/donation, animal feed, composting and other innovative recovery methods to divert food waste from the landfill.

This article appeared in the December 2021 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.