The environmental trend that's booming in Ann Arbor

Zero Waste events are becoming more and more visible in the city

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

The zero waste bins at Ann Arbor Farmer's Market September Food Truck Rally (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Next time you're at an event downtown, don't be surprised if you find a team with gloves asking to inspect your trash before you dispose of it.  

Zero Waste is the latest environmental trend to come to Ann Arbor, and the University of Michigan athletics department has jumped on board.   

In partnership with the school's Office of Campus Sustainability and Sodexo, a food management company, they aim to divert 90% of game day waste from the landfill to composting and recycling facilities. 

Now, Wolverine fans will find bins that show examples of recyclable and compostable items. Landfill bins have been removed from the main concourse.

"The University of Michigan community has big ambitions for campus sustainability, and there is no bigger stage than Michigan Stadium. We are proud to extend our Zero Waste Program to all home football games," said U-M President Mark Schlissel.

In 2015, Recycle Ann Arbor was awarded a $19,500 grant by the State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to promote Zero Waste events. They partnered with Washtenaw County and Amcor Rigid Plastics to create Zero Waste Washtenaw.

A Zero Waste Washtenaw volunteer helps diners sort their trash in Ann Arbor (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

At this week's September Food Truck Rally at Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, volunteers from the organization were stationed next to waste stations, and determined which items should go to compost, recycle or landfill. It's a bit funny to have a stranger pick apart your trash, but the outcome is well worth the awkward interaction.

Thanks to these efforts, Zero Waste Washtenaw reported a 69% waste diversion rate at the event. To break down the numbers, 11.6 pounds of waste was recycled, 112.8 pounds was composted and 54.8 pounds went to the landfill.

And the volunteers were knowledgeable. For instance, there was a brief back-and-forth over whether the plastic dip container that came with my fries qualified for compost because it came from an all-vegan food truck that's known for using biodegradable products. It was impressive.

See Zero Waste Washtenaw's summary of event impact here.

Have you seen them around? Upload pictures of Zero Waste events to our Facebook page.


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