Blog: Michigan Pushes to Become a Leader in the Emerging Circular Economy

As our nation contends with waste and its environmental impacts, the business community here in Michigan is stepping up to promote a circular economy, a model aimed at eliminating waste and finding ways of recycling and reusing products again and again. Along with reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills, this effort builds economic, natural, and social capital and could prove cost effective for businesses.
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Don DeMallie
Don DeMallie // Courtesy photo

As our nation contends with waste and its environmental impacts, the business community here in Michigan is stepping up to promote a circular economy, a model aimed at eliminating waste and finding ways of recycling and reusing products again and again. Along with reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills, this effort builds economic, natural, and social capital and could prove cost effective for businesses.

Traditionally, it has been difficult to recycle rubber at the end of its life cycle. But at Great Lakes Rubber, we have expanded our sustainable rubber product lines which use between 48 percent and 51 percent repurposed rubber, and have successfully developed an effective system that is contributing to the circular economy. Not only does this sustainable rubber reduce unnecessary landfilling, but it also lowers greenhouse gas emissions and is less expensive compared to virgin compounds.

Through repurposed rubber from tires and other products, we can create a variety of new products, such as lawn mower parts, liftgate bumpers for SUVs and even toilet plungers. Reducing our environmental footprint is important to us because it affects not only our local community, but also impacts and supports the efforts of other communities across our country and around the world. Additionally nanotechnology is being assessed to enhance our “green” rubber offerings to further expand and accelerate its applicability and use. That’s why we are ambitious and creative when it comes to developing new, cutting-edge technologies that are revolutionizing our ability to reduce waste through circularity while generating savings for our business and our customers

This effort could be further amplified across the state. Currently, the state legislature is considering House Bills 5812-5817. Should these measures ultimately pass, they will help promote a more sustainable approach to materials management while increasing statewide access to recycling services and promote greater use of advanced recycling technologies.

From a broader perspective, Michigan’s manufacturers — particularly in the plastics and rubber industries — have an incredible opportunity to establish themselves as leaders in promoting and driving forward the circular economy. Ultimately, I believe that as circularity becomes the norm in Michigan, it will translate into long-term success and returns on investment for businesses while promoting a cleaner environment for generations to come.

Don Demallie is president of Great Lakes Rubber Co. based in Wixom.

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