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Jan
27

Community Recycling Success Stories: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor sits 40 miles west of Detroit on I-94 and is known primarily for being the home of the University of Michigan.  The community is affluent and highly educated with an astonishing 79 percent of residents possessing at least a bachelor’s degree(1) . 

But Ann Arbor is also one of the most progressive Michigan communities when it comes to environmental concerns.  Recycling is a big part of this picture.  A 2007 citizen survey showed 94% of households were recycling, 69% listed recycling programs as either essential or very important to the quality of life in Ann Arbor, and 76% felt that recycling was an important community investment.

Ann Arbor’s recycling program is mandatory and is enforced by leaving materials at the curb when not properly sorted.  Recycle and refuse programs are funded entirely through property taxes.  The economic incentive for residents to recycle comes in the form of RecycleBank rewards rather than in a pay-as-you-throw pricing system.  The fact that the MRF is within city limits helps keep operational costs low and provides additional revenue from sources outside the city which utilize the facility. 

Ann Arbor has gone to great lengths to make their program as convenient as possible.  Both single and multi-family dwellings are included in the weekly single-stream curbside collection program.  Bins are provided by the City and side-door service is provided for disabled residents who are unable to transport their carts out to the curb. 

The city also coordinates with Washtenaw County to provide a drop-off center for less common recyclable items such as tires, computers, printer cartridges, small household electronics, brake fluid, motor oil, household and car batteries, antifreeze, transmission oil, oil filters, Styrofoam and packaging peanuts, egg cartons, textiles, plastic shopping bags and hard cover books.

Businesses, schools and non-profits are provided the same convenient single-stream curbside service as residences.  The City partners with the non-profit Recycle Ann Arbor to provide waste audits and assist organizations in starting up on-site recycling programs.  The University of Michigan has also been included in Ann Arbor’s recycling efforts, and the city runs special programs in student housing locations during the school year.  Virtually every resident, commercial entity, government entity and business within city limits is served by the program.

Much of Ann Arbor’s recycling success can be attributed to a big marketing budget and extensive community outreach.  The City puts on multiple workshops and special recycling events throughout the year, run tours of the MRF, hosts the annual Mayor’s Green Fair and has multiple educational resources for schools available on their web site. 

The City also publishes a comic series called Adventures of the Waste Watchers which provides education on various green topics and appeals to kids of all ages.  Other City publications include the A2 Green Guide and the Ann Arbor Green Sheet. 

Community leadership is heavily involved in recycling and green initiatives as well.  The local non-profit Recycle Ann Arbor provides additional education and outreach materials to schools and businesses, including the “Project Recycle” essay contest for 3rd graders, and operates the state’s only non-profit construction recycling program.  RAA staffer Stephen Sheldon serves on the executive board of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.  Business leaders and citizens also serve on the City Sustainability Board.

Ann Arbor benefits from strong leadership and community involvement in its recycling initiatives.  Presence of a university that is a national leader in education also lends support to a community that emphasizes going green.  Ann Arbor is subject to the State of Michigan waste laws, including a ban on yard waste in landfills and the Electronic Buy-Back law requiring electronics manufacturers to take reclaim their products at the end of their useful life.

To visit Ann Arbor’s recycling web site click here.

1. Demographic data obtained from the 2010 U.S. Census.

This entry was posted in Motivating Recycling Behavior, Recycling News, Recycling Policy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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