January MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) Open House Recap

Ann Arbor’s Recycling Plant-education center was taken over by a family of robots at this month’s open house, held on January 15th. Each month, the Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF, hosts an Open House that allows folks from the community to get up close and personal with their old recyclables through a floor tour and recycling-related activity. The Ecology Center leads the programming, through funding provided by the City of Ann Arbor, to educate residents on solid-waste related issues.

This month, we focused on “tricky recyclables” like caps, lids, and foam. Visitors used these materials and other recyclables to create robot creatures. This activity allowed educators to review what can and can’t go in the recycle bin and why--while giving suggestions (beyond making robots) on ways to dispose of those tricky items.

Styrofoam, or Polystyrene, is a puffed plastic and is not accepted curbside in Ann Arbor. Why? It’s very light-weight, breaks up easily in MRF machinery, and often sticks to other recyclables and serves as a contaminate. The best way to dispose of styrofoam? Not create the waste in the first place. Sorry folks, I know it’s a cop-out, but here I’ve got to call it. Carry a reusable take-out container with you, use a reusable coffee mug, and tell who you’re ordering from that you don’t want it packaged in foam. If you somehow still find yourself swimming in a pool of Styrofoam, you can take it to Ann Arbor’s Drop Off Station  located on Ellsworth Rd. or if you’re not in the area, you can drop it off at one of Dart containers drop-off locations, listed on their website.

Loose Bottle Caps. Why 'no bottle caps'? Detached bottle caps are small and fall through MRF machinery. Luckily, there is a movement in the field of recycling with regards to caps and plastic. Processors are now accepting plastic bottles with caps attached. Recycled plastic is a valuable commodity and recycling processors want to collect and reuse as much as they can. If you still have extra loose caps lying around, Aveda , a national hair salon, collects them. You can get a guide to what exactly they collect here, or you could consider dropping them off at the Scrap Box for kids to use for crafting.

CDs: We all have them and may be trying to get rid of them. I, for one, do not often find myself listening to my old Hanson CDs from my childhood and they’re taking up space. CDs are made from polycarbonate plastic, a thin layer of aluminum, and a lacquer coating.  With minimally scratched and usable discs, you can donate them to a second-hand store or even local library. Because I know not many folks are dying to hear MMMBOP  again (and to be fair--I listened to them a lot so they probably are a bit scratched), there is always the option of sending old discs to the CD Recycling Center. It does cost money, but it’s better than those old discs ending up in a landfill.

These “tricky recyclables” were used by a number of visitors as an artistic expression. Check out a few highlights below, and feel free to join us at next month’s open house, where we’ll be making recycled valentines!