The University Record, September 25, 1995

New partnership signals better management of waste

University and city officials shared the podium Sept. 15 at the preview opening of the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), located adjacent to the old city landfill.

Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon noted that the publicly owned, privately run facility is the culmination of a lot of different efforts going back 20 years to volunteer projects.

The waste industry is changing, Sheldon noted, “but the bottom line is that we are conserving, we are recycling, we are reusing. This is what we can be most proud of.”

The mayor also cited a number of partnerships that have developed as a result of the establishment of MRF, noting that the University “was a very instrumental partner in making certain this is a community resource. They invested in it and they will use it. We’re very pleased that the University of Michigan is a partner with us.

“We’re here because of cooperative efforts of a lot of people in this community and city officials,” she said. “We worked with the University over a long period of time to make this happen.”

The University has a 10-year contract to handle all its recyclable materials with Resource Recovery Systems Inc. of Centerbrook, Conn., a family-owned business that will run the facility.

Farris W. Womack, executive vice president and chief financial officer, noted that the MRF “enables the city of Ann Arbor and the University to be at the forefront of recycling efforts in the United States.”

“In order to preserve natural resources for future generations, we don’t have a choice about finding solutions to work together to reduce waste and provide for its management,” Womack stated. “Our main goal is to recapture as many of our raw materials as possible for reuse. A related goal is to divert waste from state landfills.

“The Materials Recovery Facility is an excellent example of how the city and the University can pool their resources—in this case, recyclable materials—to create a partnership in which we all win.”

Elizabeth Karter, president of Resource Recovery Systems, noted that the MRF “is a ground-breaking project for our company and for Ann Arbor.”

According to Karter, the facility “will be taking in more materials than any other plant like it in the country—25 different materials out of what comes in, in two streams.”

In addition, recyclable materials, such as metals, wood and cardboard—anything salvageable—will be pulled out of garbage before the garbage is sent to landfills.

“We hope to maximize recycling to a degree that’s never really been done before,” Karter said. “We don’t see many limits.”

Admitting to being a bit of an idealist, Karter said she hopes to see the day when there won’t be much garbage at all. “I think we can get there by changing the way we consume goods, by changing the way we buy things.”

Individuals with questions on recycling should contact Erica M. Spiegel, Grounds and Waste Management Services, 764-1601, or