Out of Our Minds: The Case for Further Delaying Ann Arbor’s Recycling Program

. March 7, 2017.
This is a battle that will chart the direction of the inorganic detritus generated by the organic soul of A2
This is a battle that will chart the direction of the inorganic detritus generated by the organic soul of A2

While it may appear anachronistic for any decidedly blue municipality to be without a recycling program, Ann Arbor has been without a curbside public recycling option since July 2016. And while the Ann Arbor City Council voted last night for the city administrator to negotiate the sought-after interim operator agreement by March 31 with Recycle Ann Arbor, why move forward with a deal that still agitates the status quo? The lack of a completely perfect, one-size-fits all option that upsets no one is just the reason to delay implementing even a provisional recycling contract.

After all, this isn’t just a decision to negotiate a deal with Ann Arbor’s next recycling service; this is a battle that will chart the direction of the inorganic detritus generated by the organic soul of A2.

That an outsider conglomerate, based in Texas of all places, was even in the running is laughable to any would-be insular townie bent on preserving the city’s long-protected provinciality. Ann Arbor natives, exhausted of hearing newcomers complain about the troubling lack of parking, should be disgusted that Waste Management has been in consideration at all.

But does the Council’s counting out Waste Management and its supposed proximity to the rapidly changing recycling technologies simultaneously undermine Ann Arbor’s spirit as a progress friendly haven of free enterprise?

And what of the proposal from unionized local nonprofit Recycle Ann Arbor, which kicked off the city’s original curbside recycling efforts in 1978? Though the combined words “local nonprofit” should go a long way to assuage any townie’s concerns, qualms with Recycle Ann Arbor’s approach reside in the details of just how that group would recycle these same townies’ materials.

Critics complain that Recycle Ann Arbor’s loose shipping method, while more easily allowing recyclable materials to be sorted, would also emit 2.45 times more greenhouse gasses than Waste Management’s compacting solution (which would bundle all curbside recyclables before transporting them to both Akron or Saginaw for subsequent sorting). What’s more, Recycle Ann Arbor is still setting up its internal infrastructure to accommodate the loose shipping option.

Even so, that the City Council voted 10-1 to move forward with Recycle Ann Arbor contract negotiations goes against the anodyne city’s tradition of making sure no one is offended.

Because there appears no correct route to take with regard to choosing a citywide curbside recycling service provider, it’s best to shelf the issue altogether until there emerges a solution that suits (or sandals) everybody in Ann Arbor. The opportunity cost of keeping recycling prohibitively inconvenient for most people comes down to just throwing away perfectly recyclable materials, a non-solution which obviously incurs its own environmental costs.

But since city residents are already paying that environmental piper while vocally opposing the  Council-endorsed solution for engaging a new curbside recycling service, the most Ann Arbor thing to do may be to wait for an alternative that pleases the city’s every cosmopolitan-yearning-yet-insular-leaning citizen. Now if everyone could only hold their breath that long….  

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