By: Tom Lambert

The rubber goods that keep our lineworkers safe as they scale heights to serve customers will now provide a soft landing to little feet and paws around Michigan.

Lineworkers use rubber gloves, sleeves, blankets, hoses and hoods to cover electric lines as they work to maintain and restore power on Michigan’s electric grid.

Once upon a time, those items were sent to landfills at the end of their usefulness and took decades to decompose. Now, we’re planning to recycle them for potential use as a primary ingredient in surfaces at playgrounds and dog parks.

Consumers Energy is an industry leader in repurposing expired rubber goods and helping reduce landfill waste, said Robert Redmond, senior manager of our Jackson-based Investment Recovery Center.

“Our mindset has changed as a company,” Redmond said. “We’ve gone from ‘this can’t be done’ to ‘let’s find a way to get this done.’ It’s great to be a part of this team that keeps getting things done for the betterment of our environment.”

Protecting Our Environment

In the past, we struggled with how to dispose of rubber goods in an environmentally beneficial manner. But recently we found a Michigan-based company capable of grinding our used rubber goods into a granule mix that’s used as surface material for playgrounds and dog parks.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Redmond. “We have 50 other utilities from across the country that are following our lead when it comes to reusing rubber goods.”

The effort has helped us avoid sending more than 600,000 pounds of recyclable material to landfills in 2019. We’ve set a goal to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills by 35 percent over five years.

“We are sitting at around 610,000 pounds as of the end of July,” Redmond said. “And that doesn’t even include how much mixed metal we have recycled.”

Plastics Also Recycled

In addition to rubber goods, we’re recycling polyethylene plastic items such as hard hats, natural gas pipes and some meter covers, all of which can be melted or ground down and kept out of landfills.

From the medium and high-density polyethylene, we recycle products including plastic lumber, picnic tables, lawn furniture, playground equipment and recycling bins.

“We take pride in producing for our company’s triple bottom line of planet, people and prosperity,” Redmond said.

“With whatever waste we have – whether it’s wood, metal, plastic or rubber goods – we will do our best to find an alternative to sending it to the landfill. Our mission is to protect our environment. And that’s what our aim will be every day.”

Recycling and reducing the waste we send to landfills is just one way we’re working to protect Michigan’s environment. We have a Clean Energy Plan to meet the state’s needs for decades to come while caring for the planet we all cherish. You can learn more and become a Clean Energy Partner by visiting