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New Washtenaw County solid waste authority wins $125,000 grant

Grant to support recycling contamination reduction efforts

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority has won a $125,000 grant from The Recycling Partnership and the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment.

The grant will support WRRMA’s goal of reducing recycling contamination, improving the long-term sustainability of local recycling systems and increasing the recycling rate of member communities.

The Recycling Quality Improvement grant will allow the solid waste authority to complete The Recycling Partnership’s “Feet on the Street” tagging program, which educates residents on recycling, provides feedback on tagging carts and records metrics at material recovery facilities.

“We are excited to partner with WRRMA and EGLE to capture more quality recyclables that can be transformed into raw materials, creating a healthier and less wasteful planet, a stronger economy and a community that is more knowledgeable about the benefits of recycling,” Jill Martin, director of Community Programs at The Recycling Partnership, said in a release.

“We know from experience that educating residents to recycle the correct way is key to creating and sustaining successful recycling programs for WRRMA’s member communities in Washtenaw County,” said Martin.

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According to the release, approximately 30-35% of the materials currently recycled by Washtenaw County residents in WRRMA’s service territory are contaminated by non-recyclable items like food waste and plastic bags.

In other US cities, the TRP tagging program has shown a 20-40% decrease in recycling contamination.

The “Feet on the Street” tagging program is slated to begin in spring 2021 and reduce recyclable contamination by 40% by fall 2021.

WRRMA provides a list of recyclable materials, including plastics, paper and tin cans, within its member communities, as well as recycling resources.

“It is exciting to see the region partner together to address common recycling challenges through WRRMA,” said WRRMA Board Chair Ron Akers in the release.

“Issues such as contamination and increasing costs can be better addressed regionally and we are fortunate that the member communities of WRRMA are willing to work together on these common goals,” Akers said. “The release of regional collection guidance is an initial step of larger plans to address contamination in a targeted way which we will be implementing next year. The goal of these efforts is to reduce costs by increasing the value of our recycling stream and make strides towards a stronger recycling system in Washtenaw County.”  

Formed in 2019, the new solid waste authority represents over 150,000 Washtenaw County residents in the Ann Arbor Charter Township, Pittsfield Charter Township, Scio Township, and Ypsilanti Township as well as in the cities of Dexter, Saline and Ypsilanti.

The new research and training activities come as the county and communities in the United States see an increase in curbside recycling as community members shelter and work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about WRRMA’s programs at wrrma.org


About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.