Recycle Ann Arbor to operate that Michigan city’s MRF

Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approves lease and operating agreement July 20.

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July 21, 2020

During a meeting July 20, the Ann Arbor, Michigan, City Council unanimously approved the lease and operating agreement with Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA) to redevelop the city’s material recovery facility (MRF). The city closed the MRF, formerly operated by Charlotte, North Carolina-based ReCommunity, which since has been acquired by Phoenix-based Republic Services, July 2016 because of safety concerns arising from the condition of the equipment at the facility. Since 2017, the city has contracted with RAA to haul recyclables to Ohio-based Rumpke’s MRF in Cincinnati for processing. That contract was set to expire June 30.

“Local processing of recyclables brings a range of environmental, economic and social benefits,” says Bryan Ukena, RAA CEO, in a news release issued by the organization following the council vote. “Reopening the MRF will enhance the environmental value of Ann Arbor’s recycling program and help the city meet its ambitious sustainability goals, save taxpayers and the city an estimated $250K to $550K annually, generate up to 20 good union jobs and create a regional hub that will allow recycling to flourish in other communities that have been forced to cut back or eliminate their collection programs.”

According to RAA, through the contract, it will lease and operate the MRF for 10 years from the city. RAA says it believes this model optimizes the city’s stability and flexibility for handling its recyclables and reaching its sustainability goals. 

The MRF rebuild will be supported by a grant of $800,000 awarded by the state of Michigan to RAA to support increased recycling capacity in the region. The state-run grant program seeks to increase infrastructure and recycling capacity across the state to double our recycling diversion rate. 

According to an article on Michigan Live, RAA will invest more than $5 million into capital improvements at the MRF. The city will pay nothing upfront, though it will charge the city a per-ton processing fee. The city will receive a share of the revenue from the sale of the recyclables, along with a $13.50 per ton host fee for third-party materials brought to MRF. If tonnages exceed certain volumes, the city’s per-ton processing fee will be reduced.

Construction on the MRF is expected to begin Aug. 3 and to be completed within approximately 12 months, RAA says. While the MRF is under construction, RAA will continue to haul recyclables to an outside facility for sorting.

RAA says it has partnered with Canada-based Machinex to design the new processing system, which will be able to recover glass for fiberglass and glass container manufacturers.

“Our zero-waste mission drives us to seek out the best possible end markets, those that are recovering the highest percentage of materials to the highest and best use,” Ukena says. “We also believe in transparency and actively educate the community on best practices. Zero-waste education, transparency and mission-based decisions differentiate us from large corporations that answer to shareholders or owners, not the communities in which they operate.”

He adds, “The MRF redevelopment is vitally important for recycling capacity in this region. Profits are reinvested in the local community, increasing reuse, providing for construction/demolition waste recovery, offering recycling education programs and creating other cutting-edge zero waste programs for our community.”

With its partners at the city of Ann Arbor, RAA says it is exploring how the restored MRF also could demonstrate green building, clean energy and zero-waste through the use of solar energy, electric fueling stations and energy-efficient lighting to further the city’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.