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Posted on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Shortfall in Ann Arbor's projected recycling collections has some questioning rewards program

By Ryan J. Stanton

The shortfall in collections under Ann Arbor's new single-stream recycling program — and a failed request for a contractor to receive an additional $107,042 per year to run it — has some city officials weighing a recycling rewards program that's costing up to $200,000 a year.

Others are questioning whether the city has done a good enough job of promoting the RecycleBank rewards program it rolled out in September 2010 after the city's new single-stream recycling program started in July 2010.


Angela J. Cesere |

However, its consultant says the city may need time to reach its goal.

"There is definitely a ramp-up period that is part of this that I think the city needs to take into account," said James Frey, CEO of Ann Arbor-based Resource Recycling Systems.

Resource Recycling Systems was hired by the city as a paid consultant for $102,950 more than a year and a half ago. Its projections — based on information from RecycleBank, which operates recycling rewards programs across the U.S. — proved to be overly optimistic.

The number of tons projected by the city's recycling consultant for fiscal year 2010-11 was 18,425. The actual number is somewhere closer to 10,800 tons, a 40 percent shortfall.

City officials now say Recycle Ann Arbor, the nonprofit organization responsible for curbside collection of recycling carts in Ann Arbor, is hurting financially because of it.

"I don't like to point fingers," said Tom McMurtrie, the city's solid waste coordinator. "It's difficult to point fingers because you could also point at the information that was provided by RecycleBank. I think it's better at this point just to move forward and deal with the situation."

That situation, discussed at Tuesday's council meeting, showed a shortfall in collections, which in turn is impacting revenue for Recycle Ann Arbor.

McMurtrie said the single-stream recycling program has increased recycling tonnages collected in Ann Arbor, but not to the extent that was projected in the business case used to calculate Recycle Ann Arbor's compensation over a year ago.

He said the nonprofit organization received $337,527 less than it expected from its contract with the city this past year.

As a result, the Ann Arbor City Council was asked Tuesday night to consider a contract change to increase the fees it pays to Recycle Ann Arbor. But the proposal to change the per-month tipping fee from $3.25 to $3.55 per cart for four years failed to garner enough support to pass.

Council Members Stephen Kunselman, Carsten Hohnke, Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere joined forces to oppose the increase, which would have boosted Recycle Ann Arbor's pay by an estimated $107,042 annually at current recycling levels.

Sandi Smith and Margie Teall were absent.

Frey said participation — and then revenue — would have increased if the city had rolled out the RecycleBank rewards program at the same time that single-stream recycling started.

RecycleBank is a program that incentivizes recycling by rewarding residents with points that are redeemable at retail outlets, restaurants, pharmacies, grocers and more.

"The city staff, RecycleBank and Recycle Ann Arbor have a considerable amount of work to do to get maximum penetration in the community," he said. "There is some effort that needs to be made for making the program work. You don't just turn the key and make this happen."

Frey said he also doesn't think the city has put the appropriate management time into the single-stream recycling program, nor has it effectively promoted the rewards program.

McMurtrie said about 42 percent of residents have signed up for the RecycleBank rewards program — short of the goal to get 50 percent by the one-year anniversary.

"The projections we developed were based on high participation in the RecycleBank program, so the key metric is to look at what percentage of the population is participating in the RecycleBank program," Frey said. "That would be the question: Why isn't there high participation in the incentive program right now in Ann Arbor?"

McMurtrie said the number of recycling carts deployed as part of the single-stream program is 9.2 percent lower than initial projections that anticipated 32,779 carts being deployed.

The main reason for the lower-than-expected number, McMurtrie said, is that many of the smaller, multi-family residential units that were previously using the 11-gallon recycling totes are able to share recycling carts. In addition, he said, it was discovered there was inadvertent double-counting of some residential units in the original projections.

McMurtrie said those projections were based on per-household generation rates provided by RecycleBank that were from communities that had a much larger percentage of single-family homes than Ann Arbor, which is almost 50 percent multi-family housing.

Briere, one of the four council members who voted against the Recycle Ann Arbor contract change Tuesday night, said she's open to reconsidering her vote, but only if the proposal that comes back to council includes getting rid of the RecycleBank program.

She said it's a matter of dollars and cents, and she thinks the $200,000 contract with RecycleBank to incentivize recycling is "expensive and useless."

"No one I've talked to approves of this, likes it, finds it a benefit, and it's expensive," she said.

McMurtrie said he thinks the program has contributed somewhat to the increase in recycling that's been seen in Ann Arbor. He said the contract with RecycleBank is worth $200,000 a year, but the actual billing rate has been closer to $150,000.

"I think the jury's still out on the program," McMurtrie said. "It would be a little early to cancel the program because we haven't been with it long enough to make an adjustment on the program."

He noted the actual tonnage collected is still a 20 percent increase over the number of tons that were collected in the previous year with two-stream recycling.

The cost to the city — even with a $107,042 boost in fees to Recycle Ann Arbor — still would be $151,443 less than the $1.6 million the city paid to Recycle Ann Arbor in fiscal year 2009-10, the last year of the two-stream recycling program, McMurtrie said.

Briere said she looks forward to the issue coming back to council. Even if none of the four who voted no change their minds on the contract, it could still pass with just one more vote from one of the two council members who were absent from Tuesday's meeting.

"I would expect that staff's going to go back and reassess things and bring this back to the council with some changes because they don't want to do anything to kill Recycle Ann Arbor and neither do members of council," Briere said.

Recycle Ann Arbor started as a volunteer organization in the 1970s, providing monthly curbside collection to a limited number of homes on the Old West Side. It since has grown to a service that provides weekly collection to every home and many businesses within Ann Arbor.

The city amended its curbside collection contract with Recycle Ann Arbor in March 2010. The previous contract paid $19.30 to $102.58 per ton depending on the annual tons, as well as $2.41 per service unit, with a total of 48,886 service units.

With the amendment, the city now pays a revised rate of $18.74 to $30.00 per ton, as well as $3.25 per cart, which replaced the per service unit fee.

Mike Garfield is the executive director of the Ecology Center, which is the parent organization of Recycle Ann Arbor. He said he hopes the contract can be amended again to avoid further financial complications for Recycle Ann Arbor.

"I think the single-stream program's going to take longer to achieve the results people expected," he said. "The real reason that the contract's problematic is because of the mistake on curb carts. That's what's really hurting them and it's kind of a clerical error that caused it."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

When the Recycle Bank program was announced, I thought it was a stupid idea, even before I realized how expensive it was. My feeling all along was that people who recycle now would continue to do so and those who didn't wouldn't begin because of a rewards program. We signed up for the rewards, even though we have been recycling from the beginning. We now have more points than we can redeem and most of the "rewards" are things in which we have no interest anyway. We used our points once at Plum Market, but since we can only redeem them once a month, they are pretty much useless. I say get rid of this expensive Recycle Bank program. I'm curious who thought of this idea in the first place.


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 7 p.m.

The vouchers we earn in the Recycle Bank program are valuable to me and my family. Our household is recycling 3 times more than before the incentive program as my kids have gotten involved. And they know more about recycling at the same time. We are saving real dollars off of groceries, restuarants and retail. This is saving my family at least $15 per month. And we are patronizing local businesses, some that we have never used before...or even were aware of. Every little bit helps my family. No, these incentives are not available everywhere...from my perspective. Especially in one place online. Most are unique. I see there are contract issues, but to me the answer is education about recycling benefits and clearer knowledge about how to sign up and benefit. More use and education will mean more recycling. Yeah, I know some think people should recycle regardless. Have you ever thought about how things would look if you did not have the rewards program? How much less would be recycled then? Lets enlist ideas from the vendors on how to engage more people and grow the volume needed. I think this program is all over the country isn't it?

Mike D.

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

Am I the only one who had never heard of these rewards before? I love Ann Arbor's single-stream recycling; it has dramatically cut down on my landfill-bound trash. But I can't imagine using a tacky coupon rewards program. Oh, and are those coupons printed on paper? I bet it isn't recycled!


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 4:18 a.m.

This was a bad idea from the start....the old system was working so we pay consultants to make it more complex, expensive, and less efficient. Seems to be a trend.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 11:09 p.m.

Recycle bank is a scam as far as I am concerned. The rewards are not worth close to what we pay for them. Mine are paid thru our HOA in Colorado. Yours in taxes. Cheap gimmick rewards will not make people recycle more.

Christy Summerfield

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

I recycle a whole lot. So far, since the reward program began, I've received exactly one reward so I just don't understand how it works. The one coupon I received was something I couldn't use & didn't know anyone to pass it on to. I think people in Ann Arbor will recycle without the reward program and it should just be eliminated. My biggest complaint is that I didn't get the information about requesting a larger cart so I have one that's too small. I know I could have loaded it up in my car, somehow, and exchanged it. But, I'm disabled and that wasn't really a choice. Besides, when I got my cart, it was maybe the day before recycle day so I didn't have time to exchange it anyhow. The small carts make it so incredibly hard to recycle cardboard, for example.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:02 a.m.

The city website says you can exchange your cart for a different size for free if you can bring it in, or they'll deliver and take your old one away for $25. Maybe they'll make an exception to the fee for disabled residents? It wouldn't hurt to ask. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

From the Privacy Statement on RecycleBank's URL: &quot;How Information is Used Recyclebank collects individual household and aggregated recycling data in order to administer certain of our programs. While Recyclebank exercises discretion regarding the use and distribution of the recycling data that we collect, we reserve the right to provide such data (in both individual and aggregate formats) to municipalities and haulers upon request. The determination whether to provide such information to a requesting party is made on a case by case basis taking into consideration the way in which the data is to be used. If we believe the use of the data provided will be beneficial to the public and promote the green actions that we encourage, such request is likely to be granted. Recyclebank may use household program data and PII to send relevant offers and information that may be of interest to specific Recyclebank participants, to alert you when you earn Points, and, generally, to administer the Site and the Recyclebank Rewards Program. The Site and emails we send you may contain links to other websites. We are not responsible for the content or privacy practices of those websites, including the use of PII about Recyclebank members collected by those websites.&quot; Maybe they have a subsidiary called RecycleSpamBank ... :)


Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Hmmm. Perhaps this explains the many emails I've been receiving lately alerting me to inheritance I need to claim from people in other countries? Just kidding, but I wish I would have read the fine print before signing up for the Recycle Bank program. Yet another reason it is a bad idea.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:59 a.m.

I only get one message a week from them, notifying me of an increase in my points from my recycling. I don't understand why there's all the fuss about spam from this program.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

What would increase recycling is getting all the apartment complexes recycle dumpsters instead of not having any recycling option or just a few that are always overflowing. I'm in Pittsfield and have been wondering why my apt complex isn't recycling. Forget points/rewards programs, if it's offered and visible, eventually people will recycle!!!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

Wow! I commented before reading all the other comments. It is pretty clear that residents of Ann Arbor (at least those of us posting here) do not need a silly gimmick of an incentive program in order to recycle. All we ask for is clear reporting of the actual recycle and trash flow., PLEASE ensure there is appropriate follow up to this article, including the dates of any public hearings on the program.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

I VERY intentionally declined to join the recycle bank program. The notion of getting a boatload of SPAM and incentives to CONSUME and then DISPOSE or worthless or low quality products is COMPLETELY counter-intuitive to the purpose or recycling anyway. I recycle to help minimize my consumption, waste, and footprint on this planet. It is the right thing to do. I had no idea this stupid program was costing us so much money. END THE CONTRACT NOW!


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:57 a.m.

They don't send a boatload of spam, they send one message a week telling you your new point total. The coupons include discounts at local restaurants and grocery stores, you don't have to use them to buy worthless stuff.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

If city council wants to spend more money, I'd rather see it spent on ensuring that things are actually getting recycled (not just being collected) than on gimmicks like RecycleBank.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

Let me suggest you Google &quot;RecycleBank.&quot; Take a look at how it operates, who runs its ad campaigns, and so on. National partners (from a Wiki): &quot;Bed Bath &amp; Beyond Coca-Cola Company CVS Caremark Corporation Home Depot Kraft Foods MillerCoors Ruby Tuesday's Kashi Company Ziploc&quot; Kick-backs for the City, and your personal information entered into yet another database when you sign up online for your fabulous rewards.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:49 a.m.

I guess what my main peeve is s that this recycling program was voted through with blinders on, just as many other things are. The feedback from posters a year ago when it was being &quot;sold&quot; to the public was spot on, and ignored, how can everyone posting have enough common sense about a recycling cart than the elected officals do. How can all of them be so Republic of Ann Arbor idealistic that they are total morons? The money in buckets thing isn't working, it's a broken system. Silly idealistic recycling incentive programs are fluff. FLUFF, something you spend money on when you have money to blow. Money for stupid water fountains, electronically monitored recycling carts, thumbscrewed by the DDA, etc etc. It never ends with this city council. did it not occure to them the transient population of this town, 10s of thousands of students, if their too lazy to use a crosswalk or get off their cellphone in a checkout line what makes you think they are going to recycle more? really, so what if we do or do not have a whatever percentage of recycling done in the city. Apparently (and sadly) its more important that we have x number per thousand people recycling but we have a below average number of first responders per thousand. Such numbers to be proud of. SAD.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.

As noted above, I will recycle without the incentive program. It is a hassle to get into the program, and what they offer as incentives is not what I would be interested in anyway. I am not sure what the best answer is to solve the financial issues, but my feeling is get rid of the incentives. A much better incentive would have been to reduce my cost in some manner!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

Too bad there wasn't a way to fine people who do not recycle, like Cametobelieve. I believe it is about 1/3 to 1/2 more expensive per ton to landfill our waste than recycle, so using the carts is a no brainer. The rewards program may not be worth it, the recycle carts definitely are.

Censorship sucks

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Seriously? Fine people who don't recycle? I'm all for recycling but when does it stop? Should we be fining people who smoke, fining people who don't exercise, fining people who take long showers, fining people we just don't agree with???


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

When expert predictions made by well paid consultants prove to be quite wrong, wouldn't it be prudent to request a refund?


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

I guess we're outliers. We signed up for RecycleBank and we've saved about $100 using it. No problems signing up, and we've saved at Bivouac, Stucci's, Downtown Home and Garden, getting city compost, and taking things to the drop-off station. But we'd probably shop at these stores anyway, just a wee bit less, without the coupons. If Recycle Ann Arbor is having trouble though, it would be better to keep our recycling system afloat. As to whether people should need incentives, the Red Cross is always trying incentives too. People shouldn't need an incentive to recycle *or* donate blood. But obviously there are many people not doing their part in both cases.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

People that recycle are gonna recycle anyway.You dont need to pay them.It doesnt make people that didnt recycle all the sudden start.I quizzed people at work that dont recycle and they dont have a clue about how the city runs it.First of all if they saw on article on it they would skip right over it because they dont recycle anyway so why would they read it?Second of all we dont have a newspaper in this town anyway that they would see said article

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

&quot;Frey said he also doesn't think the city has put the appropriate management time into the single-stream recycling program, nor has it effectively promoted the rewards program.&quot; Why should the City promote the rewards program? Isn't that what we're paying $150-200K a year to RecycleBank to do? As one of the skeptics of single stream and RecycleBank in the beginning, my main issue has been a failure of anyone to provide accurate and complete data for analysis. I see it still happening now with the continued focus on tonnage COLLECTED instead of tonnage actually RECYCLED. My previous questions remain unanswered: Before single stream, we all dutifully seprated materials for pick up and that resulted in 9000 tons collected. How much of this tonnage was contaminated or the wrong material that was ultimately sent to the landfill anyway? In other words, how much of this 9000 tons actually was sold or given away to be used in new products or other applications? They say they've collected 20% more tonnage from the curb under single stream. How much of THIS tonnage was ultimately sent to the landfill (now after having been through an expensive sorting process) and how much was actually sold or given away to be used in new products or other applications? And finally, how many tons of trash were collected in the trash carts before and after single stream was implemented? Did single stream result in less material leaving the City of Ann Arbor and going to a landfill or did it stay about the same (inlcuding both curbside garbage collection and post-MRF waste culled from the sorting process).

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Is there any reason to believe that more paper is contaminated with the single stream? Or does paper hold it's recyclability pretty well through being mixed up with wet bottles and such? I recall in the old days of dual stream that we'd get told to make sure the paper was dry and clean...

glenn thompson

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Tom, if 10,000 tons are collected I would guess about 2,000 are actually recycled. All metal will be recycled. It is is particularly cost effective to recycle aluminum, but most aluminum cans are collected under the bottle return law. Milk jugs are recyclable, often in the form of &quot;synthetic lumber&quot;, not many other plastics. Wine bottles and other glass are sent through our expensive sorting process, crushed to sand sized particles and then sent to the landfill. Paper and cardboard are recycled.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

In other words, if money is going to be spent, I'd rather see it spent on ensuring that things are actually getting recycled and being kept out of the landfill, than on gimmicks like RecycleBank.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

ALthough we always recycled a lot, it is easier to throw more, especially larger things, into the carts, so I would say we probably &quot;recycle&quot; somewhat more items. It is so easy with the carts! But I never even thought about these things Tom Whittaker brings up. We *should* all have the answers to these questions. Since our goal, the public's goal, is actually recycling, and that is what we think we are doing, we should know if that is really what is occurring. I think very few people care about RecycleBank rewards. A &quot;reward&quot; for us would be knowing that we are actually keeping things out of the landfill.

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

I don't have #s for you but my trash went from full to half full and my recycle bin is almost always full. But that's just me.

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:20 a.m.

Those are very good points, and we really ought to have those questions answered! Why is that data not available?! I really like the single-stream because it's easier for me. But, at least in part because it seems that more is now 'recyclable' with this new program, I sometimes wonder if I'm including things I shouldn't be. I also wonder about the paper especially. Is it getting wet and nasty with residue from cans and so on? I chuck my stuff in big group bins, not single-family household ones, and I can tell some people are better than others about cleaning their recyclables before binning them.

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Recycle bank is a scam 1) Our fancy RFID chipped carts aren't used to credit individual recycling but rather points are earned on an average along a route. So really how can increase my points when I'm averaged out with 100s of other homeowners? 2) The &quot;rewards&quot; are useless coupons that you can get anywhere. I'm willing to bet that businesses pay recycle bank to be featured. So it's really just a marketing tool not related to recycling. 3) They tried to sell me a credit card when I first signed in. So it's really just a marketing tool not related to recycling. 4) The city is paying them to market businesses to us. Huge waste of money. Kill it.

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

I think it's not just a waste of money but a corruption of civic life. I don't want my government pushing pizza coupons on me, or encouraging me to buy more crap I don't need so I can put more stuff in my recycle carts, and hope that they eventually do get recycled. It's a nasty little microcosm of the silliness of our economy. Let's please spend our tax dollars on services, like fixing our roads and mowing the grass in our parks.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

&quot;Recycle Ann Arbor started as a volunteer organization in the 1970s, providing monthly curbside collection to a limited number of homes on the Old West Side. It since has grown to a service that provides weekly collection to every home and many businesses within Ann Arbor.&quot; &quot;He said the nonprofit organization received $337,527 less than it expected from its contract with the city this past year. As a result, the Ann Arbor City Council was asked Tuesday night to consider a contract change to increase the fees it pays to Recycle Ann Arbor.&quot; Kind of says it all about what we've become: doesn't matter your IRS status, it's all about money; and if one takes a bad risk and loses, look to government. At least the openly declared capitalists usually commission high-quality actuarial analysis and oversee projects better than this.

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

I am totally freaked out by the current trends in 'social marketing' business models, to continue with your line of reasoning here. I did a little research into RecycleBank, which yielded a recent blurb in Fast Company, about &quot;crowdsourcing&quot; (lordie) some scheme about greening your home. Showed all these eager young...what to call them? not capitalists according to your definitions lol, but I guess 'businesspeople'?...people feigning huge excitement and projecting their best 'marketing' expressions lol. Yes, I agree, I really don't want to see this sort of thing applied to my not-for-profit institutions ;-) I hope this isn't a trend that sticks, because the idea of having social-marketing pushing of groupon's business model added to my civic life is truly creepy. I think I'd like to see one's position on these sorts of things--electronic chips on your recycling carts and tracking your lightbulb use or whatever tied to 'incentive programs'--made transparent during elections, so a person could *not* vote for those who support it. I think one can be for green things, and recycling programs, without supporting such silliness. It's too bad for a long-standing non-profit recycling group that they bought into this kind of projection of optimistic profits that groups like RecycleBank clearly push. To the degree that their current losses came as a result of *that*, I don't really feel sorry for them. To the degree that the city messed up with their counting and Recycle Ann Arbor failed to catch it, I suppose I hope they get a re-working of their contract. But I don't *at all* support schemes like RecycleBank and hope we see the silliness inherent to it!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 5:42 a.m.

My points exactly. Businesspeople who are brazen enough to call themselves capitalists know they invest in something real; some nonprofits, governments and businesses (think social marketing) actively distort the public's perception of them simultaneous to their aggressive pursuit of money or advantage, with responsibility left by the wayside. Misbehavior, in this post-modern narrative of sentiment over rationality, is somehow a function of the sector in which the institutional resides.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

'Openly declared capitalists' Bwahahaha! LOL! No, they commission high-quality *lobbyists* and oversee better subsidies and lower tax rates to increase corporate profits that they then shuffle to their Caribbean subsidiary to further avoid taxes.

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

LOl about the 'openly declared capitalists'...I guess the investment bankers we've bailed out of their 'bad risk' somehow missed the memo on 'high-quality actuarial analysis' ;-)

David Cahill

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

I absolutely love the single-stream recycling program itself! We now recycle at least twice as much as we did with the totes, which means less going into the trash. But I have no use at all for the coupons. Imagine the City's paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for something that's not useful to the average citizen!


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

I have my recycle container for sale on Ebay. It's the perfect place to sell a scam. Problem solved.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

I signed my parents up at, the &quot;rewards&quot; are no more than coupons, and the same coupons you can get using or getting an entertainment coupon book or visiting a particular places website and signing up for regular emails. At anyrate, the cart is so big they never fill it up and don't need to take it to the curb weekly. More often than not the cart is dropped and falls sideways across the driveway after it is dumped by the truck. It is a struggle for them to get the monster of a cart righted again. recyclebank does not respond to emails. Two coupon offers did not work at the stores they were suppose to. It is a rather useless site, I suppose though I will try to use up the remainder points. I do agree, for what they do it is not worth the cost to the city. It certainly didn't increase my families recycling and I don't see that cancelling it would make me stop. I go back to one of my orginal posts regarding the issue. The old tubs worked fine, we didn't need these big fancy, barcoded carts or the $70-80 amount that were charged for them. another case of the stupidity of city council.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:47 a.m.

The carts were free to residents when they were first distributed. You shouldn't have had to pay for one unless you had to replace the first one. Also you can swap your cart for a different size for free if you can take it to them, or they'll deliver for fee: &quot;No fee for swapping cart size from Recycle Ann Arbor location at 2420 S Industrial Hwy (8:30am-4:30pm M-F). $25 delivery fee, if service requested.&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

I just planned to use my points for the tipping/dropoff fees at Platt &amp; Ellsworth. Keep them &quot;in-house&quot;, so to speak.

Long Time No See

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

Cancel the Recyclebank contract. Stop paying Resource Recycling Systems for consulting services.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

At least some of the $102,950 should be returned since there was an error in the information that was paid for. With so much consulting and analyzing, couldn't anyone think of printing &quot;RECYCLABLES&quot; on these bins, instead of the negative &quot;NO TRASH&quot; which actually forces one to think of trash first, and then how these are NOT for trash.....please, &quot;RECYCLABLES&quot; would have been so easy! Having the bin be a totally different color than the others,'ve made sense too. Those issues aside, I love having the big bin to throw everything into. That is easy and fantastic. Our family easily has twice as much in recyclables to put out each week than trash. We never signed up for the RecycleBank. We are already huge recyclers, and did not know how our personal information would be deceminated. However, if there is $200,000 worth of &quot;rewards&quot; out there, I might have to take a second look!! Seriously, most people are recycling because they feel it is the responsible thing to do. Instead of selling the RecycleBank, sell the idea of recycling as responsible citizens. Get some strong messages out there that can be internalized easily. Beginning with something like &quot;RECYCLE NOW!&quot;, &quot;GOT RECYCLABLES?&quot;, or, &quot;JUST RECYCLE IT!&quot; on the recycle bins, instead of .....&quot;No Trash&quot;.....arughh.....


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

No, I meant &quot;deceminated&quot; - my smart phone told me so ; ) Thank you for the correction!

John B.

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

Agreed. I think you mean &quot;disseminated,&quot; btw.

Patricia Lesko

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

A2Politico has several posts going back to January of 2010 questioning the city's misguided move to single-stream recycling. You can find them here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 10:36 a.m.

Gadfly alert


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

You were absolutely right with your criticisms, Pat. I remember Last year when Margie Teall was at a campaign debate and went head-over-heels over single-stream recycling despite many in the audience raising the same doubts that have come to pass.

glenn thompson

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

First, it is not a 40% shortfall, it is an 80% shortfall. Tom McMurtrie told Council the recycling would double to 18,000 tons. An increase of about 9,000 tons. He claims he got an increase of about 2,000 tons or 20% (using the base of 9,000) The shortfall was therefore 7,000 tons or 80% when you correctly use the same base number. Second, when this was first proposed Mr. McMurtrie used Westland Michigan as an example of a city that doubled its recycling with single stream recycling and the recyclebank program. Mr McMurtrie failed to mention that before the single stream recycling and the recyclebank program Westland did not have curbside pickup. When this was pointed out he stopped using Westland as a model. but did not revise his estimate. Several citizen groups pointed out it would be nearly impossible to achieve the optimistic estimates provided by McMurtrie. Ann Arbor had a high citizen participation rate in the dual stream program. It was very unlikely that sufficient additional citizens would participate to double the collection. The additional materials collected in the single stream program are plastics. Most of these, like yogurt containers, are very light and could double the collected tonnage. Mr. McMurtrie and Mr Frey do not need to point fingers, they only need to look in the mirror.

glenn thompson

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

The last sentence in the next to last paragraph should read &quot; . . . could not double the collected tonnage.&quot;

Will Warner

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

How is it we know that recycling is more than a feel-good exercise?


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Will, what's the alternative? Burying non-biodegradable waste until we run out of room? I'd rather we take the responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves rather than have the next generation deal with our trash.

glenn thompson

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

Because people will pay you for scrap metal and paper.

Steve Hendel

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

I don't like to point fingers,&quot; said Tom McMurtrie, the city's solid waste coordinator. &quot;It's difficult to point fingers because you could also point at the information that was provided by RecycleBank. I think it's better at this point just to move forward and deal with the situation.&quot; When a problem arises is precisely the time that 'pointing the finger ' a/k/a accountability, is needed. If you don't know what went wrong, and why it did, how are you going to fix things? Yet too often accountability is made to sound like a BAD thing by the use of terms like 'finger pointing' and 'the blame game.'

average joe

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

&quot;I think it's better at this point just to move forward and deal with the situation.&quot; So is he suggesting the city look for his replacement??


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

Of all cities in the state, Ann Arbor should be the one that DOESN'T NEED RecycleBank to encourage recycling. Let the McMansions in the burbs sign up for the program to prod them into saving the Earth.


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Because Ann Arborites don't require incentives and always do the right thing? I notice a trend in all of your comments that the fine folks from Ann Arbor are always correct, never commit crimes and love the earth more than citizens from any other city.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

&quot;The real reason that the contract's problematic is because of the mistake on curb carts. That's what's really hurting them and it's kind of a clerical error that caused it.&quot; I'm not surprised for someone who is paid for his work on Recycle Ann Arbor wants the money to keep flowing. Surprise was a CLERICAL


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Resource Recycling Systems should pay the city back some of their fee, since THEIR projections were wrong. RecycleBank should pay the city back some of their fee, since the info they supplied was a joke - 100% increase in recycling volume... Recycle Ann Arbor should NOT get a new contract, send them whatever they other two give back. The city should file a formal complaint with RecycleBank, an &quot;expert&quot; consultant, that fleeced the city for over $100k. People should NOT be rewarded with anything for recycling, you do it because it's the right thing to do. Cancel the points program.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

I certainly use my bin, but wanted no part of putting my name with my recyclables. I knew that the incentives wouldn't outweigh the privacy intrusion. Didn't the people behind this know that one need only do a search on line to find that other communities have turned this program into a mandatory program, complete with fines if you don't recycle a specified amount of material? Count me out.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:40 a.m.

&quot;complete with fines if you don't recycle a specified amount.&quot; I don't think mandatory recycling works this way. What's mandatory in those programs is that you don't throw out stuff that could be recycled, you're required to keep recyclables and waste separate.

Censorship sucks

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

You miss the point say it plain. The rewards system was very heavily advertised as a way to get people on board with the new cart system. And you don't need a foil hat to do the on-line search to see that many cities have turned in into a mandatory thing. Anyone who is serious about recycling does not need a single cart or incentives to do it. You clearly did since you recycle more now. And take a look at the people around you...many look like they'd do just about anything for a free pizza.

say it plain

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

OMG, we've seriously gotten on board with a program like this?! Goodness me, how obscene. Is that part of their revenue stream/business model, this recyclebank thing?! What a racket, lord, I thought Ann Arbor considered itself a town for smart people lol. Willing to sell ourselves out for BOGO pizza coupons, jeez. I like single-stream recycling a lot, I think I recycle a lot more this way and it's surely more pleasant than separating. But why couldn't we have it without the extra outlay to these RecycleBunk people?!


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

I have loved this program. I had no problem whatsoever setting up the account, and get a coupon every month that become my &quot;date night&quot; activity with my husband. I figure we've already saved over a hundred dollars in restaurant bills. And, you can redeem coupons for things like baby food and groceries. It has definitely encouraged me to recycle more. Even aside from the incentives, the single stream makes it much easier to recycle, keeps items dry and from blowing all over my yard, and now many more plastics are accepted which makes a HUGE difference. I hope we continue to support this program. Worse case scenario - if we have to get rid of the incentives, I hope we at least keep the single-stream program somehow. This is a huge benefit to individual households and the environment.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:37 a.m.

It's great to hear that you are getting good value from the program. Please spread the word, too many residents don't know about it. If we're stuck paying for it, we should at least get what we can from it.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Question: Was contributor local radio host Lucy Ann Lance paid for her robocall promoting this program? If so, how much was she paid and where did that funding come from? Is there any accounting of funds that have been spent? &quot;Mke Garfield is the executive director of the Ecology Center, which is the parent organization of Recycle Ann Arbor. He said he hopes the contract can be amended again to avoid further financial complications for Recycle Ann Arbor.&quot; What is Mr. Garfield paid for his work on Recycle Ann Arbor? That should be public information as a nonprofit.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

It seems to me that the $102,950 that the City is paying Resource Recycling Systems to predict citizens' recycling rates would go a long way towards making up the $107,042 &quot;boost in fees&quot; that Recycle Ann Arbor is requesting. $200,000 or $150,000 per year for RecycleBank is not worthwhile. The City should save money by ditching RecycleBank and the Resource Recycling Systems consulting services. Those of us who want to recycle will do so whether or not there is an incentives program.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

I've had nothing but terrible support from I can't tell you how many times I've had to call and email them to try to even get an account created. They couldn't find my house or anything in their database. The coupons they offer are worthless. I'd like the city to cancel the program. Especially if they are paying any money to recyclebank.

say it plain

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

There's an incentive program that comes along with the single-stream recycling? I didn't even know about it lol, but if I did, I'd probably not use it. And so let's see...with the extra money spent on consultants, still nobody caught a clerical error that caused a significant problem with contracts? I guess it can be hard to point fingers for ultimate issues with the numbers (though, presumably, there is an office somewhere that did the mis-calculations and can explain how it happened?!), but if there really is very little community support for or interest in an incentive program then why pay for one?! How long have other cities which claim to make good use of these RecycleBank contracts needed to get them to 'pay off'? Does RecycleBank have guidelines/suggestions for how our city should be 'advertising' this, and we've not done so?

say it plain

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

Now that I've read more about this incentive program on the older thread, I think it's absolutely scandalous that we're paying for such a program. Just another reason to distrust EVERYTHING this city's leadership asks for, pulease, paying that kind of money for pizza coupons that don't even print out and which registering for causes you to be put on credit-card offer lists and such?! Is Ann Arbor really that silly?!

Stephen Landes

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

&quot;I don't like to point fingers,&quot; said Tom McMurtrie, the city's solid waste coordinator. &quot;It's difficult to point fingers because you could also point at the information that was provided by RecycleBank. I think it's better at this point just to move forward and deal with the situation.&quot; Sorry Mr. McMurtrie, but you gave up the option of not pointing fingers when you allowed the lack of performance to this contract to reach this level. What have you been doing all year? You need to be keeping your finger on the pulse of a brand new and expensive program with very high goals required to be successful. That means you need to intervene long before the losses get to the current level. If you just finding out about the 40% gap between actual and projected then you need a much better monitoring system. If you knew the gap was there and didn't advise somebody about it then you have abdicated your responsibilities. The way to deal with this failure is the private sector way -- the contractor made a bad business plan and they failed to meet their requirements, so they fail completely as in OUT OF BUSINESS: no bailout for this company.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Agree with Mrs. Briere re: RecycleBank. I signed up a long time ago and still haven't bothered to redeem any of the points yet. I already have more stupid coupons than I know what to do with, and I'd recycle just as much if we didn't have the rewards program. If it's causing shortfalls, get rid of it.

Floyd Griffey

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.



Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Single-stream recycling was viewed as a cure-all and great idea by many local politicians but the cynics were right with their criticisms. I had my doubts as well, but the naysayers were 100% correct.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:35 a.m.

It's buried in the bottom third of the article, but it says there that the total quantity of waste recycled (and so costing us less than dumping in a landfill) is up 20% since the change to single-stream. How is that not an improvement?