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CEO of Recycle Ann Arbor discusses plans for new facility

Recycling truck.
Recycling truck. (Recycle Ann Arbor)

ANN ARBOR – In mid-November, it was announced that Recycle Ann Arbor received significant investments to rebuild its materials sorting facility that had been closed since 2016.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the American Beverage Association each invested $800,000 in the $6.7 million project. Recycle Ann Arbor came up with the rest in the largest-ever fundraising effort for the 40-year-old organization.

CEO of Recycle Ann Arbor, Bryan Ukena, said the new state-of-the-art facility will eliminate the need to send the city’s recyclables across state lines.

“What it will look like for Ann Arbor is we will be able to process our recyclables locally again and that’s a really big deal,” said Ukena. “We can determine where those materials go and we can recycle that stuff to its highest and best use.”

He also said the facility will see the creation of strong local jobs.

“This will be a union shop,” said Ukena. “These will all be union jobs and well above the living wage, fully benefitted and good time off. When we’re fully operational, it will be between 20-22 full time jobs. I think it’s a big win for Ann Arbor.”

The city of Ann Arbor built its recycling facility in the 90s, but worn down equipment from years of running too many tons through the machinery forced its closure four years ago.

Recycle Ann Arbor will be using the shell of that building for its new facility, and will install all new equipment. The land is owned by the city, and Recycle Ann Arbor has a ground lease to lease the land and outer building.

Ukena said that he is encouraged by the direction the project has taken after years of outsourcing.

“The investment just goes to show that there’s a growing awareness that community-based recycling is working versus other corporate type of recycling which is not faring as well in some cases,” he said. “The state, the American Beverage Association, Closed Loop -- everyone sees that that is the type of recycling that’s working.”

He said the organization couldn’t have moved forward with the project without the confidence of Level One Bank.

“We’ve been doing business with them for decades,” he said. “The nonprofit mission-based organization sets the tone and mission and direction, but it has to be supported by a sound financial foundation.”

As for future plans, Ukena said that they have their sights set on more projects.

“This won’t be the last investment,” he said. “This is one to keep an eye on.”

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.