- The Ann Arbor, MI City Council voted 10-1 in favor of negotiating an interim contract with local nonprofit Recycle Ann Arbor at a meeting on March 6. Negotiations would be completed this month and a contract would be brought to the council for final approval in April, as reported by MLive.
- The city's material recovery facility is currently inoperable while repairs are made. Recycle Ann Arbor's proposal would send loose, unsorted recyclables to the Rumpke MRF in Cincinnati. Waste Management's proposal would continue the current practice of sending baled, unsorted recyclables to facilities in Akron and Saginaw.
- While city analysis found that Waste Management's proposal would be $57,000 less expensive through the end of the year, council members raised concerns about material becoming degraded and losing value when baled. If Recycle Ann Arbor ends up needing to bale material as well, then costs could become even higher. The city will be looking for ways to plan for this in an interim contract.
Ann Arbor's recycling operations have been in flux since the city terminated a contract with ReCommunity to operate its material recovery facility in July 2016. Waste Management was brought in on a temporary basis in August, followed by an extended agreement in September, to help the city with its recycling operations until a long-term solution could be found. Due to ongoing repair issues at the facility, Waste Management has already been exporting material to other MRFs for months.
The argument against this practice is that baling unsorted material decreases its value, particularly for glass and paper. This shares similarities with the argument that some have made against single-stream recycling. Questions have also been raised about whether transporting loose material would require more truck trips and cause more emissions. Recycle Ann Arbor maintains that it could handle the loads using larger trailers with the same amount of trips.
This debate would be moot if the city's MRF is fully repaired. No indication has been given of how long that might take. The current contract under discussion could last through July 2018, but local officials are also still pursuing a long-term solution to get the city back on track.