Confused About Those Raccoons on Area Billboards?


They are there to help improve recycling efforts in Michigan

Have you come across a billboard showing six raccoons in various states of clothing and style? Not sure what they’re selling?

They are actually just helping Michiganders figure out how to better recycle. To get the message out, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy created the Recycling Raccoon Squad.

Included in the group are Gladys Glass, Paper Mackay, Nila P. Lastic, Carlos Cardboard, Precious Metale and Frank. Each has information on how to recycle glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, metals and Frank, who specializes in other items such as batteries, rope, paint, clothes, mattresses and more.

The state department recently launched Know It Before You Throw It, a statewide program to help people understand recycling by reducing the amount of contaminated materials improperly going into recycling bins. The state also wants to double Michigan’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately reach 45% annually. Michigan’s current 15% recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and ranks among the nation’s lowest, according to the department’s Materials Management Division Director Jack Schinderle.

“We want to inform and inspire more people than ever before in Michigan about how to recycle better,” Schinderle said. “This campaign is a first of its kind for Michigan that offers multiple benefits. Increasing recycling and improving the quality of materials we’re recycling saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.”

Michigan recycles more than 90% of bottles and cans, but bottles and cans represent only 2% of all the waste Michiganders recycle every year. Almost 53% of the state’s municipal solid waste goes to landfills instead of recycling facilities. Lansing and East Lansing, for example, recycle nearly 7,500 tons of waste annually, according to a state department news release. While the cities have a relatively low contamination rate of 8% to 10%, that number is on the rise, according to data provided by both municipalities.

Recycling in Michigan is receiving a major boost as state legislators in an overwhelmingly bipartisan move have increased the department’s funding for recycling from $2 million last year to $15 million in 2019. The extra funds will support the development of recycling markets, increase access to recycling opportunities and reinforce planning efforts to grow recycling at the local level, the department noted.

Some of the misconceptions about recycling that the effort is trying to clarify include:

  • 50% of Michigan residents mistakenly believe they’re allowed to recycle plastic bags in their curbside recycling, which is prohibited by most municipalities.
  • 76% of Michiganders are unaware that failing to rinse and dry items before putting them in the recycling bin poses a risk of contaminating everything in the bin.

“Some of the material being disposed of through landfills and incinerators could be recycled or composted in most metropolitan communities without great difficulty,” said Recycling Association Board Chair Kevin Kendall.

To meet the members of the Recycling Raccoon Squad, go to

For information on the city of Lansing’s recycling program, visit

To learn more about East Lansing’s recycling policies visit




Tags: billboards, raccoons

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