- The Ann Arbor, MI City Council recently voted unanimously to award a new one-year contract to Recycle Ann Arbor for handling of the city's recyclables, as reported by MLive. The nonprofit already has the local curbside collection contract, though Waste Management has been temporarily in charge of exporting since Ann Arbor's MRF was deemed inoperable last year.
- Recycle Ann Arbor's one-year contract will begin on July 1 and includes the option for two six-month extensions. The nonprofit will be shipping cardboard to a company in the nearby city of Taylor. The remaining material will be sent loose and unsorted to Rumpke Waste and Recycling Services in Cincinnati.
- Waste Management is currently baling the unsorted material before shipment and had initially offered a slightly less expensive proposal. City estimates showed that the company's plan would cost up to $1.14 million for one year, as compared to $1.22 million for Recycle Ann Arbor. Though newer estimates have also shown Recycle Ann Arbor's plan coming in at a similar price.
Ann Arbor's recycling program has been in flux for nearly a year after the city terminated its contract with MRF operator ReCommunity last summer. Soon after that, Waste Management was brought in as a temporary measure and the city has extended the arrangement on multiple occasions while it worked out a long-term solution. After months of analysis the city decided that it wouldn't be "economically feasible" to repair the MRF and began negotiations with Recycle Ann Arbor.
The baling of unsorted recyclables is common practice in certain regions of the country that are farther from processors and end markets, though the concept has been unpopular with some city officials and environmental groups. They argue that the process degrades material quality, particularly for fiber, and in turn reduces value. Those in favor of the practice argue that more money can be saved on transportation efficiency when the material is baled. Starting next month, Ann Arbor will serve as an example of the loose shipment approach.
Figuring out a longer term solution remains a high priority for the city and local officials have expressed interest in some type of regional operation with other municipalities in Washtenaw County. This could fit into a broader conversation about doubling Michigan's diversion rate in the coming years by expanding processing infrastructure within the state.