Recycle Ann Arbor in the New Millennium

Recycle Ann Arbor is a critical part of Ann Arbor’s waste management. A subsidiary of the Ecology Center, the program helps keep recycling green, efficient, and local. Local recycling is a critical component of greener waste management, fending off monopolistic practices that threaten to increase rates without recourse, which could discourage recycling in favor of landfilling and burning. 

Recycle Ann Arbor (RAA), began to expand in the 1990’s after the Environmental Bond passed, a $28 million bond. This necessary influx of resources allowed RAA to switch from monthly to weekly curbside pickup, distribute new collection totes, upgrade collection equipment, and renovate the processing facility. As a result, collection totals jumped from less than five percent to nearly 30 percent. 

Largely as a result of its success, in January 1997, Recycle Ann Arbor moved its regional Drop-Off Station to make it more convenient for Washtenaw County residents and to be able to accept a wider variety of materials. That same year, Recycle Ann Arbor opened the ReUse Center in 1997, a 20,000 square foot retail outlet to which community members could donate and purchase building materials, furniture, appliances, sporting goods, and more. Between 2000 and 2004, the ReUse Center expanded, increasing sales and customers exponentially. In 2004, the Drop-Off Station served about a quarter of the Washtenaw population. 

Recycle Ann Arbor also offered RecycleWorks, a program that provided curbside recyclable pickup for Ann Arbor businesses. RecycleWorks provides site-specific evaluations, educational training materials and sessions, external recycling carts or dumpsters, and quarterly reports that detail recycling quantities. 

With the success of these programs, Recycle Ann Arbor acquired Calvert’s Rolloff Containers, Inc. in February of 2007, a company that supplied containers to construction sites. This meant that the center could now offer construction and demolition waste and recycling services. The purchase also included a 10,000-square-foot warehouse for sorting and collection, to which people could drop off recyclables, similar to the Drop-Off Station. Recycle Ann Arbor purchased this company with a lot of debt, believing that construction and building would continue as it had the past several years. However, in December of 2007, the Great Recession hit while construction ground to a halt. This nearly bankrupted Recycle Ann Arbor, but the center rebounded and managed to stay afloat. 

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