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Recycling Detectives’ Coming to Washtenaw County Neighborhoods Starting TODAY as Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority Launches Major New Campaign to Improve Curbside Residential Recycling

Nationally Acclaimed Feet on the Street House-to-House Effort To Begin Monday, June 21, Helped By $118,605 Grant From Michigan EGLE & The Recycling Partnership

Washtenaw County, MI — Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA) is teaming with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership to introduce a first-of-its-kind project aimed at improving the quality of materials residents in Ann Arbor Township, Dexter, Saline, Scio Township, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township recycle in their curbside bins during 2021

WRRMA will launch The Recycling Partnership’s Feet on the Street cart-tagging recycling campaign on Monday, June 21 with awareness and outreach activities to continue through the summer across the communities.

Statewide, Michigan’s recycling quality improvement efforts with The Recycling Partnership rolled out last fall and will continue through 2021. WRRMA is among more than 100 Michigan communities representing 300,000-plus households statewide who requested funding support from EGLE totaling $800,000 in individual grants, including $118,605 to WRRMA.

It’s a new effort by the newly formed waste authority to improve the quality of recycling in single-stream curbside recycling bins by providing the authority’s approximately 40,000 households with personalized and real-time curbside recycling education and feedback.

“Recycling is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do – and this program represents a major step forward for recycling in our communities,” said Theo Eggermont, WRRMA manager.

“Recycling properly not only saves our taxpayers money by reducing the cost of processing at the materials recovery facility, but it also supports jobs and improves the health of the environment,” he said. “We know our residents want to recycle the right way. Through this Feet on the Street campaign, we are providing them customized, immediate feedback to do just that.”

The Feet on the Street program is intended to increase the amount of quality recyclables so that items accepted for recycling are guaranteed to make their way back into new products. Achieving that quality standard in recycled materials ensures they can circulate back in the recycling system to become new products or packaging while also reducing the amount of nonrecyclables in recycling bins.

Developed by The Recycling Partnership, the nationally acclaimed program helps communities achieve economically efficient recycling programs, reduces the number of new resources used in packaging by providing more recycled content for new products, and improves the cleanliness of communities.

Included in the Feet on the Street program is a comprehensive education and outreach strategy that involves a team of community-based observers – essentially a squad of “recycling detectives” – who will visit each resident’s cart and provide tailored feedback on how to improve items that make it into it.

In addition, the education campaign will target WRRMA’s 40,000 single-family households in the proposed project area using direct mail pieces and social media messaging, as well as concentrated tagging efforts that address contamination.

Recipients of the Feet on the Street print informational fliers will be encouraged to recycle paper and cartons; cardboard; metal items such as cans; plastic bottles, jars and jugs; and glass bottles and jars. Residents are also urged not to bag their recyclables and not to recycle such items as plastic bags or plastic wrap; “tanglers” such as cords, hoses or chains; yard waste; and food or liquids.

The flier will direct recipients seeking more information to visit https://wrrma.org/ or call 734-222-3920.

“The Feet on the Street program works by giving residents instant feedback on what is and is not recyclable,” said Jill Martin, director of community programs at The Recycling Partnership.

“Through this personalized and real-time feedback loop, we are going to help the communities of WRRMA capture more quality recyclables that can then be transformed into new materials, creating and supporting jobs, a less wasteful planet and stronger, healthier communities,” Martin said.

Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist with EGLE, said materials aren’t truly recycled until they are transformed into a new product for use. Those uses, he said, save energy, reduce water consumption, decrease greenhouse gasses and conserve resources while creating jobs and growing the economy.

“Material should be clean and practically free of any contaminants to be considered viable for an end market and repurposing,” Flechter said.

The goal of the Feet on the Street project will be to reduce the percentage of contamination and educate customers on how to recycle correctly.

Now, more than ever, Michigan residents view recycling as an essential public service. And during a time of social distancing when the offices of many nonessential employers are closed and commercial recycling is near an all-time low, producers see residential recycling programs as a critical supplier of manufacturing feedstock so they can make their products from recycled content instead of new materials.

“WRRMA is excited about this project and sees this as a great opportunity to help improve the recycling resource stream through much-needed public education on the benefits of recycling correctly,” WRRMA Board Chair Ron Akers said.

The Recycling Partnership has implemented the Feet on the Street program in 70 communities across the country, resulting in average 27% increases in the overall capture of quality recyclables with some communities seeing as much as a 57% decrease of nonrecyclables in their recycling stream.

The TRP initiative aligns with EGLE’s “Know It Before You Throw It” recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoon Squad. The campaign is promoting best practices and emphasizes that recycling materials saves energy, reduces water use, decreases greenhouse gases, conserves resources and translates into local jobs.

“We are looking forward to partnering with Michigan communities and The Recycling Partnership on this data-driven approach,” said Liz Browne, director of EGLE’s Materials Management Division. “It’s more important than ever to communicate with the public in order to improve the quality of materials being recycled. We all have a role to play in helping businesses get materials to make the essential products Michigan needs for our economic recovery from COVID-19, such as toilet paper, food containers and shipping boxes.”