Recycle Ann Arbor Wins Contract to Process City’s Recyclables

A big win for the environment

In early June, the Ann Arbor City Council concluded an 8-month-long bid process by unanimously approving a contract with Recycle Ann Arbor to process the City’s recyclables. RAA’s proposal offered high recovery rates, low environmental impacts, low price, and high performance.  

After the Council vote, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor declared, “I look forward to working with Recycle Ann Arbor and to making sure that we have a recycling program that will make all of Ann Arbor proud!”

City officials pointed to several factors that distinguished RAA’s proposal from the other bids.

Recycle Ann Arbor’s proposal promoted a higher quality of recyclable materials and a consequent lower environmental impact.  Since the MRF shut-down, Ann Arbor’s unsorted single-stream recyclables have been baled before transfer to a Waste Management MRF in Akron, Ohio.  RAA will be “loose-hauling” materials to facilities owned by Rumpke Waste and Recycling Services, avoiding the compaction and breakage of materials.

Industry experts agree that the practice of baling unsorted recyclables is less efficient and produces lower grade recycled materials.

“Baling unsorted recyclables leads to the interlocking of items, making materials much harder to segregate at the MRF, which leads to far higher residuals at the end of the sorting lines, and at the end markets,” according to Todd Bukowski, a packaging industry and sustainability expert with Arbor Packaging Consulting LLC.  “Those materials then end up in landfills.  For quality recycling, you want to bale materials after sorting, never before.”

Another notable aspect of Recycle Ann Arbor’s proposal is their solution for Ann Arbor’s glass recycling problem. Due to high contamination and downturns in the commodities market, recovered glass has rarely been recycled back into the glass market over the last several years. Instead, it's been used as landfill cover or road base. Rumpke Waste & Recycling Services operates a state-of-the-art glass processing plant in Dayton, Ohio that will clean, sort, and upgrade Ann Arbor’s materials so that the City’s recycled glass will be processed and marketed for glass containers and fiberglass. Currently, glass makes up 12% of the City’s single-stream recycling.

Ann Arbor City Council took a stand in favor of proven performance.  As Councilperson Chip Smith put it, “they’ve been a solid community partner for over 30 years.”  Recycle Ann Arbor has provided drop-off recycling services since 1970, curbside recycling collection for the City since 1978, and pioneered numerous other recycling and waste reduction initiatives.  Between 1981 and 1995, RAA also processed the City’s recyclables.

Rumpke, founded in 1932, is one of the most reputable companies for waste collection and processing in North America.  Its state-of-the-art materials recovery facilities handle over 400,000 tons per year of recyclable material from all over Ohio, including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, as well as communities in surrounding states.

Through increased recycling education that focuses on critical areas of improvement, Recycle Ann Arbor plans to improve Ann Arbor’s participation rate and decrease its contamination rate.

“Facilitating the sorting of recyclables in addition to the collection will provide us with a new level of recycling data previously unavailable to us,” said Recycle Ann Arbor CEO Kirk Lignell. “We will be able to assess Ann Arbor’s recycling material stream and provide valuable feedback to the community. As a mission-driven organization, we know that this will produce better recycling results.”

The new contract is set to go into effect on July 1st, 2017 through June 30th, 2018 and allows for two six-month extension options.


Published on June 29, 2017