Recycling Improvement Program
Washtenaw County Recycling Resource Management Authority Program Hotline: 734-222-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to the Recycling Waste Wizard Online Tool
Purpose of the Program
Since the start of the 2021 calendar year, the City has paid between $118 – $124.50 per ton for recycling. This cost has increased significantly over the last few years (from roughly $30 per ton) due to changes in the recyclables market. Recyclables are a commodity; and the higher the quality of a community's recyclables, the more valuable they are, and the less those materials cost to process. When residents put "contaminants" (i.e. trash) in the recycle bin, this may result in the entire bin being contaminated, turning the entire bin into trash. Such contaminants include food or liquids, hazardous waste, and grease, among others.
"Wishcycling" is currently a significant issue that is resulting in higher costs in the recycling commodity market. This occurs when people who want to do the right thing place inappropriate materials in the recycling bin that they assume to be recyclable. These non-recyclable materials end up being thrown away at the Recycling Materials Recovery Facility anyway. As the cost to process recycling is currently significantly higher than trash tipping fees, every time someone puts “contaminant” (i.e. trash) items in their recycling, there is an unnecessary cost to the City and the City's residents.
Trained staff will be at your recycling bin soon with individualized feedback to improve your recycling. The Recycling Quality Improvement educational campaign kicks off with a measurement of overall recycling contamination rates in your community and the six neighboring communities that comprise the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA). Then, WRRMA “recycling detectives” will quickly glance at each single-family home’s cart on four curbside recycling days within WRRMA’s communities, starting in mid-June.
Recycling that is clean and has low contamination is more valuable to manufacturers. Contaminants can spoil other materials in the recycling truck or cause fires and other issues in processing centers. Items like hoses and plastic bags tangle in machinery, causing safety hazards. Cleaner recycling helps to ensure the materials you recycle are recycled.
During these quick checks, if something in your recycling cart does not belong there, our detectives will leave an orange “oops” tag will behind with feedback on how to improve your recycling. If it happens again, your recycling cart will not be collected. Another tag, this time red, will tell you what contamination needs to be removed from your recycling for it to be picked up on the next collection date. A hotline number is listed on each tag to answer questions and address concerns during this program: (734) 222-3920.
Michigan is investing in both local recycling systems and manufacturers who use recycled materials. This program is funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and The Recycling Partnership. It aims to clarify what is recyclable, provide manufacturers with cleaner material to make new products, decrease the cost of recycling, and reduce worker safety hazards. The Recycling Partnership has coordinated this program in over 80 other locations across the United States and has seen contamination rates reduced by 40%.
Measurement of contamination rates after the campaign will assess its effectiveness, stay tuned for further information. Thank you for going on this educational journey with us! For more information about the program, what can be recycled curbside, or alternate locations for hard-to-recycle materials, visit WRRMA’s website at www.wrrma.org.
- June 11 – 18: Audit at Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) of total community recycling. The goal of this audit is to set a baseline level of recycling contamination.
- June 21 – August 13: Cart-to-cart review of recyclable materials and tagging. If contamination is found on a cursory review of the materials in the recycling cart, then that cart will be tagged with a note that there is an issue. Second and subsequent tags on the same cart will result in that cart not being picked-up that week.
- Post August 13: Final audit of total recyclable materials at the MRF to determine the level of change in contamination.