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Ann Arbor's Materials Recovery Facility Could Serve As Model To Boost Recycling Across Michigan

Jul 22, 2014

Michigan's recycling rate falls well below the regional average. It stands at about 15-percent right now.   Governor Rick Snyder wants to double the rate in the next two years.  The head of the state's Department of Environmental Quality believes an Ann Arbor facility could play a role in boosting recycling across the state. 

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant touring Ann Arbor's Materials Recovery Facility.
Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

One side of Ann Arbor's Materials Recovery Facility is stacked high with cardboard, plastic, and metal. Materials  dumped there regularly by recycling trucks.  At the other end of the process, tightly packed, sorted bales of materials wait to be turned into new products.  In between is a series of conveyors, belts, and other machines the employees use to take a single stream of recycling and divide the different materials.  

Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant believes the ease for individuals of single stream recycling could be one key to boosting Michigan's rate.  He thinks there are a couple of other barriers that need to be hurdled as well.  He says, "We've got to educate about the importance of why to recycle, and how to recycle, and two we've got to make access easy and the we've got to grow these markets and demonstrate to Michigan citizens why there's an economic benefit to recycling, not just environmental benefit."

Ann Arbor officials say the city already had a higher recycling rate than the state average when the switch to single stream recycling took place.  With the change to single-stream, it increased the recyle rate by 15 to 20 percent. 

The facility holds open houses one Saturday a month during the school year and group tours can be arranged year-round. 

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— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.