Many Ann Arbor residents, including former city employees who managed the city’s recycling and waste programs for over 20 years, are urging the city to hire local nonprofit Recycle Ann Arbor and get the Materials Recovery Facility off Platt Road up and running again. It’s been over three years since the city halted operations at the single-stream recycling plant due to safety concerns.

The recyclables that residents place in curbside bins are now trucked 250 miles to Cincinnati for processing. “This has been heartbreaking as a council member to sit here and watch us continue to ship recyclables off,” said Council Member Julie Grand, D-3rd Ward. “It just flies in the face of what we stand for as a community, what people want.”

Council voted 9-2 to direct city staff to negotiate an agreement with Recycle Ann Arbor to rebuild and operate the Materials Recovery Facility for an initial period of 10 years. “The contract will include requirements that RAA submit timely and detailed reports as required to assess performance and that the city will receive a host municipality fee for all non-city materials processed and that the city will receive the best terms offered to any other entity processing materials through the MRF,” the resolution states.

The city administrator is directed to report to council on any budget changes needed to implement the agreement and council is expected to vote on the contract before it’s executed. City staff had recommended council instead approve a five-year contract with Flint-based Emterra Environmental USA Corp., a division of Canadian firm Emterra Group, to haul the city’s recyclables to a new Emterra facility in Lansing starting next July.

Community members argued Recycle Ann Arbor’s proposal to equip and reopen the local plant is better financially and environmentally, and creates local jobs, while providing opportunity to once again use the plant as a community education center and for recycling tours.

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