City of Ann Arbor aims to reduce compost contamination with upcoming change

“If it is plastic, it is not accepted”

The Material Recovery Facility presort station is the entry point for all materials sorted at the facility. Sorters remove items like trash, plastic bags and electronics to prevent them from damaging the equipment and contaminating the recyclables. (Recycle Ann Arbor)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Starting Jan. 1, you’ll need to think twice before throwing things in your compost bin.

Beginning in the New Year, the City of Ann Arbor and WeCare Denali -- the city’s compost site operator -- will only accept manufactured compostable products made of fiber at the city’s compost facility. This includes things only made with fiber and paper.

Officials said that the city aims to reduce windblown litter at the site and the amount of contamination that ends up in the final compost.

Compostable plastics tend to get confused with petroleum-based plastics (that are not compostable) and end up in the recycling stream. Officials noted that these lightweight plastics also rise to the top of compost piles and are swept away by winds leading to litter.

“The City is recognizing this change may be frustrating to those who rely on previously advertised compostable plastic products, either as part of their business or in their home. However, experience with plastics has revealed that they cause confusion, contamination and litter leading to poor-quality compost as well as a degraded environment,” says a notice from the city.

To help mitigate confusion, the city has created a website with more information about acceptable Compost Manufacturing Alliance - Windrow (CMA-W) certified products and their manufacturers. There will also be a webinar explaining the changes.

Officials advised, “If it is plastic, it is not accepted.”

Here are some compostable items:

  • unlined paper bags
  • coffee sleeves
  • paper cups
  • paper deli sheets and wraps
  • paper bowls and plates
  • carry out boxes
  • paper straws
  • napkins
  • wooden utensils

Here’s the full list.

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.