Stories indexed with the term ‘Recycle Ann Arbor’

Recycling Pilot OK’d for Multi-Family Units

A two-year $95,694 contract with Recycle Ann Arbor for a recycling incentive program for multi-family residential units has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council at its June 16, 2014 meeting. Such a pilot program is included in the city’s solid waste plan, which the city council adopted at its Oct. 7, 2013 meeting.

The solid waste plan includes evaluating methods to increase recycling participation through pilot programs. Among those methods is the introduction of a recycling incentive program for multi‐family housing units. The city council discontinued the RecycleBank incentive program for single-family residential units with a vote on May 22, 2012, which eliminated funding for the RecycleBank program in the FY 2013 budget. After two years … [Full Story]

A2: Recycling

On Recycle Ann Arbor‘s 35th anniversary, Barbara Lucas of WEMU looks at the history of the city’s curbside recycling, and interviews several of the people who helped start the program. Among those are Dan Ezekiel, who’s now a science teacher at Forsythe Middle School and chair of the city’s greenbelt advisory commission. [Source]

Drop-Off Recycling Contract OK’d

At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a contract with Recycle Ann Arbor to continue the operation of the drop-off recycling center on the city-owned property at 2950 E. Ellsworth Road, with no financial support from the city.

Previously, the drop-off station was supported by three municipalities: the city of Ann Arbor ($30,000), Washtenaw County ($50,000) and Pittsfield Township ($7,500).

According to a staff memo accompanying the resoultion, when Washtenaw County withdrew its support in 2009, Recycle Ann Arbor declined support from the other governmental units – because it would have required tracking where users lived in order to determine the appropriate use charge. Roughly 60% of the users of the facility live outside Ann Arbor. Recycle Ann Arbor now charges a $3 entry fee, in addition to the specific drop-off charges for specific kinds of items. For example, the charge for dropping off a car tire is $5 – with the $3 entry fee, it would total $8.

The previous contract with Recycle Ann Arbor to operate the drop-off facility expired nearly two years ago, on Jan. 1, 2010. The new contract is retroactive to that date.

The staff memo for the agenda item notes some significant sinking of the southeast corner of the building at the facility, but indicates there is no immediate danger. Still, building repairs are recommended.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Powers Gets Admin Nod; Recycling Revisited

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 18, 2011): Councilmembers completed their first two significant tasks in under an hour on Monday evening.

I will vote buttons

The speaker’s podium at Monday’s meeting was graced with a basket full of buttons stating: I WILL VOTE. The city’s primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 2. The buttons are part of a city clerk’s office effort to increase participation in the elections. (Photos by the writer.)

During the time reserved for council communications at the start of the meeting, councilmembers decided to reconsider a 5-4 vote they’d taken on July 5. That vote, which failed to achieve a six-vote majority, had the outcome of rejecting an increase to Recycle Ann Arbor‘s contract to provide curbside recycling service in the city. After agreeing to reconsider the vote, the issue was again fresh before the council.

Councilmembers then unanimously agreed to postpone action on the contract until the next meeting, which falls on Aug. 4 – after the Aug. 2 city council primary elections. Based on remarks from Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), it appears likely that the council may discontinue a contract with RecycleBank (an incentive program provider) in order to free up funds to supplement Recycle Ann Arbor’s contract.

Next up was a resolution that had been moved forward on the council’s agenda to a spot before all the consent agenda items. After brief deliberations, the council agreed to offer its open city administrator position to Steve Powers. The decision for Powers over another finalist, Ellie Oppenheim, came after two rounds of interviews on July 12-13, including a televised session on the morning of July 13. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Search Concluding for Ann Arbor City Admin"]

Although Monday’s meeting was brief, the council ticked through a raft of significant votes after those two main business items. The expected start of the East Stadium bridges reconstruction project was reflected in the approval of stormwater control projects near the construction site, and in the approval of a deal to use land as a construction staging area. For a property just down State Street from the bridge, but unrelated to the project, the council approved a sanitary sewer hookup at the location where Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky has opened for business.

Related to the city’s emphasis on the natural environment, the council approved a contract that will allow the planting of 1,200 trees in city rights of way, and added 110 acres of land to the city’s greenbelt program.

The city renewed its membership in the Urban County, a consortium of local governmental entities that allows the city to receive federal funds through a variety of federal U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs. The council also appointed Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) as a hearing officer for liquor license revocation recommendations. Initial approval was also given to two ordinance changes related to employee benefits – one of them for union employee retirement benefits, the other for non-union retiree health benefits.

Only three people addressed the council during public commentary at the start of the meeting. Two of them were the owners of businesses – Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Garden – adjacent to the construction site of the underground parking structure along Fifth Avenue. They reiterated the same theme they’d conveyed to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) at that body’s July 6 meeting – their business is suffering due to the construction.

And related to the DDA, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) continued a pattern of using his council communications slot to update his colleagues on his campaign to press the DDA to provide more information about its budget. It’s a highlight of his re-election campaign in Ward 3, where he’s contesting a three-way primary on Aug. 2. [Full Story]

Ward Changes Paused, No Recycling Pay Hike

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 5, 2011): Baked into the council’s post-Independence Day meeting was a fundamentally democratic theme: voting.

Larry Kestenbaum

Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum was on hand to distribute a written statement encouraging the Ann Arbor city council to wait until after the general election to change the city's ward boundaries. (Photos by the writer.)

It began with public commentary on the topic of a proposed redrawing of the boundaries for the city’s five wards. The city charter requires the wards to be pie-shaped wedges. The redrawing of the lines themselves was not thought to be particularly controversial. But the timing of the redistricting stirred a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union to appear before the council to address councilmembers. Attorney John Shea, speaking for the ACLU, told them they shouldn’t enact boundary changes between the primary and the general elections. Ultimately, the council kneaded the advice into their thinking, and voted to postpone the whole question of redistricting.

The meeting ended with a voting snafu, when the council tried to convene a closed session to discuss land acquisition. So even though the vote was 6-3 in favor of entering into a closed session, a 2/3 majority of members present did not satisfy the statutory requirement of a 2/3 majority of the council’s 11 members. The vote was eventually recognized as only half-baked, and the council came out of their workroom, revoted 8-1 to re-enter the closed session, and completed the meeting without further complications.

Part of the meeting’s creamy dessert filling also depended on a somewhat infrequent parliamentary exercise that resulted in revoting an item that the council had approved two weeks earlier. That vote was on a contract for the reconstruction and relocation of water, sanitary sewer and stormwater lines in the vicinity of the proposed site for the Fuller Road Station. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) brought the resolution back for reconsideration, and council members voted unanimously to roll out the dough again by rediscussing and revoting the issue. The outcome was the same – it was approved – but Anglin registered his dissent this time by voting against it. He told his colleagues that when they’d voted two weeks ago, he had not realized that the project was related to the Fuller Road Station site.

Also part of the council’s meeting was a significant vote that received no discussion by the council. A proposal to voluntarily increase an already-approved contract with Recycle Ann Arbor was voted down 5-4, thus failing by one vote to achieve the six-vote majority it required.

The council also wrapped up a loose end from its previous approval of ordinances related to zoning and licensing of medical marijuana, by approving a non-disclosure policy. The policy ensures that private information of patients and caregivers is not divulged.

In an item added late to the agenda, councilmembers also approved a one-year contract with the city’s deputy police chiefs union.

In other business, the council set a new design review board fee at $500. It also approved three water-related projects: a porous pavement project in the Burns Park neighborhood, a rain garden on Kingsley Street, and a level-of-service study of the city’s water system.

The council also received a presentation from the director of the Ann Arbor District Library, Josie Parker. Highlights included data on the more than 600,000 annual visitors to the library’s downtown location. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Rejects Pay Hike to Recycle Firm

At its July 5, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted against increasing the payment it makes to Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) for curbside collection of the city’s single-stream recycling carts – from $3.25 to $3.55 per month per cart. The vote was made without any deliberations and resulted in 5 votes for it and 4 against. Voting against it were Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).

The city council had voted on March 15, 2010 to adopt the single-stream recycling program, which began exactly one year ago, on July 5, 2010.

At that time, the city approved a contract with RAA that called for a payment of $3.25 per month per cart that RAA empties, plus a per-ton payment of between $18.74 and $30.00. The amount of revenue RAA has received through these two kinds of revenue was less than projected last year. Specifically, the tonnage payments received by RAA for fiscal year 2011 (which ended June 30) for recyclable material were projected to be $406,332 but in fact only generated $187,560 for RAA – only 46% of what was expected. The shortfall was $218,772.

Also, the city expected to distribute 32,779 carts, but it turned out that only 29,734 carts were deployed, or 9.3% fewer than planned. The staff memo accompanying the resolution explained the reduced number this way: “… many of the smaller multi-family residential units that were previously using the 11-gallon recycling ‘totes’ are able to share recycle carts, resulting in a smaller number of deployed carts.” In terms of revenue, the reduced number of carts meant that RAA received only $1,159,626 compared to the projected $1,278,381 – for a shortfall of $118,755.

Summing the shortfalls in the two kinds of revenue ($118,755 + $218,772), RAA received $337,527 less than it expected for FY 2011. The increase in the monthly per-cart service fee requested (but rejected by the council) – for all five years of the five-year contract – would have worked out to nearly cover the annual shortfall that was due only to the decreased number of carts: $107,042 versus $118,755.

The overly-optimistic projections were made by the city’s recycling consultant Resource Recycling Systems and RecycleBank, a company that administers a coupon-based incentive program to encourage residents to recycle. When the council approved the single-stream recycling contract with RAA last year, it also struck a 10-year deal with RecycleBank, at roughly $200,000 per year, to administer their coupon-based incentive program to help boost recycling rates in conjunction with the single-stream rollout.

At the time, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) questioned the length of the RecycleBank contract, and established in the course of deliberations that the city’s opt-out clause would be less costly than the cost of the contract. He was concerned that the city had options in the event that RecycleBank’s incentives did not boost recycling tonnage to the levels that were forecast. ["Council Banks on Single-Stream Recycling"]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Council Banks on Single-Stream Recycling

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 15, 2010) Part 2: Part 1 of the meeting report handles the range of various topics at the meeting that did not fall into the general category of recycling. Part 2 focuses specifically on the two recycling-related resolutions approved by the council.

Jim Frey and Tom McMurtrie

Tom McMurtrie, left, is the city's solid waste coordinator. Jim Frey, right, is CEO of Resource Recycling Systems, a consultant for the city on recycling.

The two separate resolutions correspond to the two facets of the new recycling system for Ann Arbor, which will be deployed in July 2010.

One resolution revised the contract with Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) for curbside recycling pickup to reflect the single-stream character of the system. Residents will no longer place paper and containers in separate 11-gallon stackable totes to be hand-emptied by RAA drivers.  Instead, residents will put all their recyclable materials into a single rollable cart with a lid. Drivers will operate a robot arm from inside the truck to lift and tip the single cart’s recyclable contents into the truck.

The other resolution approved by the council authorized a contract with RecycleBank to implement an incentive program for residents, based on their participation in the recycling program and the average amount of materials recycled on their route.

Both the conversion to the new system and its associated incentive program came under criticism  during public commentary. During council deliberations it was the incentive program that was given the most scrutiny by councilmembers – with Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) voting against it. The contract with RAA was given unanimous support from the nine councilmembers who were present.

The arrangements with RAA for collection and with RecycleBank for the incentive program are separate contracts with separate entities – the single-stream system could be implemented without the incentive system. But it became apparent during council deliberations that the idea that the city council might opt for a single-stream system without the incentive program was not something city staff had planned for: The single-stream carts are already molded with labels “Earn rewards for recycling.” [Clarification: The authorization for the in-molded cart labels had not been made before the council approved the incentive contract.] [Full Story]

Special District Might Fund Energy Program

infrared scan of switchplate to external wall

Infrared scan of light switch plate on the interior of an outside wall. The scan was made during a homeowner energy audit. Cold-to-hot on the color scale is: black, purple, dark blue, light blue, green, yellow, red. The scan, made during a blower test that caused air to infiltrate the house at a high rate, shows that there are significant air leaks around the plate.

Most homeowners would say that they’d love to save a few dollars on heating their houses. And caulk is cheap, right? So why would a homeowner who feels a draft hesitate to invest in a caulking gun and a tube of caulk? One possible reason: To do a really good, comprehensive job sealing up a whole house could require a $3,000 investment – in labor, caulk, spray foam, weatherstripping, and other materials.

So if  homeowners are going to spend a few thousand dollars to improve the energy efficiency of their houses, maybe there’s a more cost-effective investment they could make – like throwing $2,000 worth of extra insulation in the attic.

The city of Ann Arbor has a similar challenge – if it receives more than $1 million in federal stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to invest locally. Andrew Brix, energy coordinator for the city, and other city staff need to answer the question: How do you spend that money in the most cost-effective way for the community?

Their tentative answer could include financial help for homeowners in the form of loans set up through a self-assessment energy financing district – help for homeowners like the one faced with the $2,000-for-air-sealing versus $3,000-for-attic insulation question.

The Chronicle didn’t pull those numbers out of a hat. We pulled them out of a Matt – as in Matt Naud’s energy audit report. Naud is the environmental coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, and he agreed to let us shadow the Recycle Ann Arbor energy audit team as they conducted their analysis of his house. [Full Story]

The Ecology Center’s Many Shades of Green

Mike Garfield, executive director of The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

Mike Garfield, director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, speaking at the nonprofit's annual meeting on Thursday in the Michigan Union.

Green was the operative word at Thursday night’s annual meeting of the Ecology Center, where around 100 people  heard about initiatives that this Ann Arbor nonprofit is leading to build a greener world, and about the challenges in reaching that goal.

They heard about a multimillion-dollar grant recently awarded to Recycle Ann Arbor, with The Ecology Center as a partner, to install green energy technologies at schools and colleges statewide.

They heard from board chair Roger Kerson, director of public relations for the United Auto Workers union, who assured the audience that the center doesn’t spend a lot of money – as in, not a lot of green – on lavish salaries. (This comment drew laughs from the staff.)

And finally, John Warner – who founded and leads the world’s first green chemistry institute – gave a speech that was part tutorial, part pep talk about the benefits of that approach to product design. [Full Story]

How Large Vehicles Roll in Icy Weather


Stephen Ferszt of Recycle Ann Arbor loads contents of curbside recycling bins into a pickup truck bed, which is the vehicle of choice for designated streets when road conditions are poor.

On first glance, it appeared to The Chronicle that an entrepreneur with a pickup truck was gleaning cardboard from Ann Arbor’s curbside recycling program. But it turns out that Stephen Ferszt was working for Recycle Ann Arbor. He explained that the smaller pickup truck he was driving was part of a contingency plan used on certain streets when road conditions were bad enough. The larger trucks were more likely to get stuck on streets with hills like Mulholland Avenue, where we encountered Freszt. On Friday morning, the freezing rain that had coated roads and sidewalks certainly warranted the contingency. [Full Story]

Just Don’t Shred the Donuts

Sign at the entrance to the Drop-Off Station on Ellsworth Road.

Sign at the entrance to the Drop-Off Station on Ellsworth Road.

Shredded coconut and shredded paper might not be an obvious pair, but on Friday they went well together at Recycle Ann Arbor’s Drop-Off Station.

Anyone who dropped off paper to be shredded got offered cider and donuts from Washtenaw Dairy. They also got up to 100 pounds of paper shredded for free either by a special truck on site or at a remote location, transported there by a bonded and insured driver to ensure the documents’ security. By early afternoon, about 12,000 pounds of paper had been shredded. [Full Story]