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Posted on Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 10:22 a.m.

City: Ann Arbor recycling rates increased 24 percent in first year of single-stream recycling

By Staff

In July 2010, the City of Ann Arbor’s recycling system underwent a transformation to a single-stream operation. Now, the city is reflecting on its progress since the program started.

Since the city’s switch to single-stream recycling, Ann Arbor’s recycling rates have increased by 24 percent and trash tonnages have been reduced by 10 percent. The use of recycling carts allowed the city and its contracted recycling collector Recycle Ann Arbor to reduce truck routes and save operating costs, according to a news release.

The Ann Arbor City Council in August voted to boost payments to nonprofit Recycle Ann Arbor by about $107,000 annually — partly making up for the fact that projections for single-stream recycling have proven overly optimistic.

The upgrades to the city-owned Materials Recovery Facility increased recycling throughput to process up to 20 tons of recyclables an hour — for two shifts/day — averaging more than 4,000 tons per month, the release said.

Ann Arbor officials in October asked residents to take a quick online survey to help provide feedback about the city's recycling program. The survey asks residents how their recycling behavior has changed since the introduction of singe-stream recycling in July 2010.

Prior to July 2010, Ann Arbor residents were required to separate papers and containers into two different curbside recycling bins. With the single-stream recycling system, residents and businesses were able to recycle all their recyclables in one new large cart, according to the release.

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Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

This is a recycled press release, not news. I thought we might see the results of the survey, but no. I remember, from a very long time ago, sitting in a Psych 101 class and hearing the point hammered repeatedly: correlation does NOT prove causation. From a definite point in time (the city's switch to single-stream recycling) they have measured a difference (recycling rates have increased by 24 percent). There is no proof that one caused the other. It might be: - More people now have big recycle carts than used to have the little bins--we are a transient community and things disappear and get destroyed. Those little bins look to be a nice size to fill with books for a move. - Your neighbors will clearly see if you only have two carts at the curb and you will look bad in comparison if you don't recycle. - More people are green-conscious because of general increased awareness. Green is now ubiquitous. - The counting-measuring process at the recycle operation improved. - We are becoming on average a younger community with more energy and more commitment to the environment. - There are now more items classified as recyclable. - Or, the increase is because it's easier to push a cart on wheels than to carry bins. Who says it is the single streaming? Personally, I like the carts. I used to haul the little bins to the curb on a dolly because old people need to do that. I remember driving to a recycle station somewhere in the city and sorting everything into the correct bin. I also used to work on fundraisers called "paper drives" where we got 2 cents per ton for newsprint and we had to go door-to-door asking for donations and get our parents to drive it all to a central drop-off point with a big trailer waiting. Carts on wheels that you push to the curb are much better.

Dan Ezekiel

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

#Vince, that is a good question, but I was told by an engineer who consulted on the restructured (for single-stream) MRF that one of the standards was that 5% or less of the input to the MRF had to be landfilled (because it isn't recyclable). He said they have met that standard easily. #Tom, I agree, the workers at the MRF work very hard. It is a dirty, difficult, fast-paced job. #SMC, I agree (minus the sarcasm) that single-stream helps those who want to recycle but don't want to keep up-to-date on complex separating or cleaning of recyclables. Decades ago, when I helped start Recycle Ann Arbor, our vision was that it would be as easy to recycle as to "throw away". With single stream, that vision has finally been achieved.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

Single-stream recycling is the ideal solution for most Americans (Ann Arborites included) who would love to be more eco-friendly, but don't have the time/inclination to separate, fold, catalog and gift-wrap their recyclables, as was required under the old system.

Vince Caruso

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

We really need to ask HOW MUCH of the recycled material goes to the landfill. This data has not been produced anywhere I have seen and has been asked by many. This is the real measure of success, along with less total stuff for the city to collect in the first place. Seems we could be collecting very clean recycles that then still go to the landfill! That's not progress that is waste of time and money. Lets try and get some meaningful facts for the public who pay the bills.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

This is misleading .... the increase in funding is not for single stream recycling - it is for the incentive program that few people choose to use or feel is worth while.

Tom Todd

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

the People at the MURF work HARD, (single stream is easier for residents)