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Posted on Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Single-stream recycling in Ann Arbor starts Monday

By Tina Reed

Updated: This story has been changed to reflect a correction in the items to be collected as part of Ann Arbor's single stream recycling program. It will accept additional plastics, including #1, #2, #4, #5, #6 and #7 plastic, that are in the shape of a plastic bottle or tub. For example, a plastic yogurt container might be recyclable but it's smaller plastic lid would still not be. It will also accept glass and metal, bulky plastics and paper & flattened boxes. For more information, visit:

Ann Arbor residents should start throwing their unsorted recyclables into a single cart beginning Monday as part of the city's new single-stream recycling program.

While residents won't yet have new recycling carts from the city, they should still begin putting unsorted recycled materials in the containers they previously used. Cart distribution begins July 9, and all carts should be delivered to households within the next six to eight weeks, said Tom McMurtrie, Ann Arbor's environmental systems analyst.


Ann Arbor residents will soon be able to recycle more plastics.

The change, part of a $4.6 million project to retrofit the city's Materials Recovery Facility, is meant to be more convenient, encourage increased recycling, make pickups more efficient and ultimately capture more recycled materials to be sold for reuse, officials have said.

The move to single-stream recycling was approved by the Ann Arbor City Council in November. Since then, the city also agreed to a contract with the company RecycleBank, which will provide vouchers and coupons to residents based on the amount each household recycles.

Those vouchers and coupons can be used at certain businesses or donated to charities. The RecycleBank program will begin Sept. 1. The new carts will have radio-frequency identification, or RFID, cards to electronically track how much households are recycling to award the points.

Starting Monday, more recycled materials will be allowed for collection. Materials that can be recycled include:

  • Plastic #1: Commonly used to make 2-liter soda bottles, cooking oil bottles and peanut butter jars.
  • Plastic # 2: Commonly used to make detergent bottles and milk jugs.
  • Plastic #4: Commonly used to make dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trashcan liners and food storage containers.
  • Plastic #5: Commonly used to make bottle caps and drinking straws.
  • Plastic #6: Commonly used to make packaging pellet, cups, plastic tableware, meat trays, “clam-shell” to-go containers (plastic, not Styrofoam).
  • Plastic #7: Commonly used to make food containers (Tupperware).
  • Bulky plastic HDPE #2: Items like buckets, crates, trays, outdoor furniture and some toys.

The city will still be unable to accept PVC, Styrofoam or plastic bags due to problems they can cause at the recycling center.

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.



Sun, Jul 4, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

SKHA2: The point I was trying to make was that we are already doing it. When the recycle bins (again, one for paper, one for cans etc.) in my co-op are emptied each week, they are dumped into a single bay in the truck and are then compressed together. They are not kept separated. So we've been doing it for years. But the powers that be will muck up this perfectly good system and make us spend money to build bigger concrete pads to hold the new, bigger bins. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it!


Sun, Jul 4, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

Single stream recycling starts tomorrow for everyone. It's the points program that doesn't start right away for businesses and multi-family complexes. Lids, paper towels/napkins, paper cups...none of those are accepted. The flyer is pretty clear, I think Pizza boxes...they didn't accept them before but it looks like they do now.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 5:30 p.m.

Well, knock on wood, er, screen pixels. There's such minimal controversy here today. So far, what a pleasant surprise! For a little while, some locals had been insisting that single stream recycling formed at least one spoke in a green-hued axis of evil. Right now, their silence is deafening. Did a memo go out calling off the political offensive over this issue? If so, then great! Let the local media, eco-activists, and home recyclers monitor single stream over the next year to see how it actually plays out in practice.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 5:25 p.m.

More clarification on bags and lids is needed. Also, how about paper products? Cardboard, I presume, and office paper and newspaper, but greasy pizza boxes? Coated paper cups from fast food joints? Brown paper towels? I can think of undesirable contaminants galore... I ask these questions not to grouse about what we have to sort, but to get behind the effort and recycle well.

Seasoned Cit

Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

a Question for someone from the City, RE: bottle tops and plastic lids to containers (all kinds) What should we do with the tops or lids? I assume they are one of the accepted plastics but most have no markings on them. Should all bottle tops be taken off and dumped in bins separately?

5c0++ H4d13y

Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

I'll raid my neighbors recycle bins so I can earn more points. Oh wait you didn't read that.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

Tina, Can you find out why the city doesn't have the new cans/carts delivered to us already. What the hell. Makes no sense to not have the new carts when the program starts up. Why can't the city get anything accomplished in a sensible way?


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

This note for krc. New single stream recycling is not for co-ops yet. If you read further on the recycling web site, you will see that the new recycling at this time is only for single family residences and duplexes. Businesses and apartment complexes (which includes co-ops for the purposes of recycling) will participate at a later date. It would have been helpful if this information had been more prominently displayed.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

The city won't know how much each household recycles. The tags will only record participation. Then each household will get an equal share of the points based on the amount of recyclables collected by your neighborhood recycling truck. It's not an exact science. You could put out a single can and still get the same amount of points as your neighbor who recycles everything.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 10:54 a.m.

This is shocking. "The new carts will have radio-frequency identification, or RFID, cards to electronically track how much households are recycling to award the points." Will there be punitive meausres taken if the amount is below an established standard????? There will be at some point. Sounds like a Big Brother Nanny State program.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

Glad this is happening. I live in a co-op and we have two recycle containers. One for paper, one for bottles, cans, etc. I've seen the truck pull in and empty them. Into the same bin on the truck. Mixing them right up. Single stream recycling. So this has been going on a long time. Ann Arbor is finally going public. And they aren't charging for the new household bins! Hooray!


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

Regarding the acceptance of #4 plastic, in addition to not accepting plastic bags made from #4 plastic, it appears that plastic lids made from #4 plastic (the type of plastic that makes up the majority of the lids on the containers I purchase) also are not acceptable ("No Plastic Lids").


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

Don't think of it as what the "City" requires you to do. Think of as what you can do to help your fellow citizens. We are the "City". Many communities don't have curbside pickup. YOU have to separate and transport your recyclables to a central location. The new containers being delivered are the same as your trash and compostables containers, so they have lids.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

It always amuses me how much work the city expects me to do in order to give them stuff. I just hope that the new recycle containers do a better job of containing the material on windy days. I always like coming home from work to find trash strewn about the neighborhood when trash day turns out to have more than a light breeze.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

Great news. I am very pleased that we will be able to recycle more things - and do so more easily. Nice improvement!

John Reed

Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

Ms. Reed, this wording seems a little unclear: "Materials that can be recycled include:... Plastic #4: Commonly used to make dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trashcan liners" followed later by "The city will still be unable to accept... plastic bags." From the city's website, it looks like the #4 bags are indeed not accepted.

David Cahill

Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 7 a.m.

Good! This system should be a lot more convenient. For me, the big advantage is that I will no longer have to dismember and tie up cardboard boxes. In the past, a big pile of boxes has built up on our back porch, and I have cut them up every six months or so. Now, I can just dump them in the new cart.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 6:38 a.m.

Maybe neighborhoods could pool their points for neighborhood specific projects. Like a can drive. That would be pretty cool.


Sat, Jul 3, 2010 : 5:54 a.m.

Maybe if we all pool our points we can buy a new bridge for Stadium Ave.!