The campus recycling program began in University of Michigan (U-M) Housing's residence halls in 1989. Since then, the program has continued to expand to more than 200 buildings across campus. In fiscal year 1996, the U-M recycled more than 1,900 tons of mixed paper and containers.


Applicable Regulations
State of Michigan Act 451 Part 115.

Although recycling is not mandated in the State of Michigan, county governments are required to develop 5-Year Plans for solid waste management. The Washtenaw County Plan calls for a 30 percent waste reduction goal among all municipalities and major generators. The University is required to report recycling and waste management progress to the County on an annual basis.


Overview of Procedure
Recycling and waste collection service is provided internally by U-M Grounds & Waste Management Services. Education of employees on recycling procedures in office areas begins at new employee orientation. Information is made available about the types of materials collected and where the collection bins are located. Materials collected for recycling include 14 different items consisting of various types of paper and boxboard, glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum containers. New items to include in recycling programs are continuously being explored.

All of the 200+ buildings on the U-M Ann Arbor campus have arrangements for recycling. When an item is to be discarded, faculty, staff, and students are asked to take the item to centrally-located recycling bins. Over 3,500 internal collection bins have been placed throughout University buildings.

The collection bins are emptied by custodial personnel into wheeled storage carts and taken to the building's loading dock. Each loading dock is equipped with collection dumpsters for the items to be recycled. The materials to be recycled are picked up by U-M operated front-load collection vehicles and transported to the Ann Arbor Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for processing.


Waste Minimization Procedure
Source-separation of the different grades of paper was the first type of recycling program introduced to the U-M. Faculty, staff, and students were asked to separate white office paper, mixed office paper, newspapers, and corrugated cardboard. To greatly reduce the cost of collection and simplify sorting guidelines, the program was converted to a "commingled" system where all grades of paper are collected together.

Currently, recycling paper bins accept newspapers, all grades of office paper, magazines, phone books, and soft-covered books. High volumes of bulkier fibers such as corrugated cardboard, boxboard, and shredded paper are collected and taken directly to the loading dock dumpsters for pickup.

Building Services custodians collect the recyclable materials from the internal bins and transfer the material to large storage dumpsters outside the buildings. U-M Grounds & Waste Management Services personnel pick up the recyclable material and deliver it to the MRF in Ann Arbor.

An average of eight tons of recycled paper is handled each day. The material to be recycled is delivered to the local, privately-operated MRF for processing.

A Food and Beverage Container recycling program was started in Housing's Dining Services areas in 1991 and several other food service areas on campus in 1992. In 1993, the program expanded to include academic and administrative buildings as well. Today, nearly all buildings on campus have the opportunity to recycle food and beverage containers. The container recycling program accepts steel and aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars, plastic jugs and bottles (#1 PET [polyethylene terephthalate] and #2 HDPE [high density polyethylene]), milk cartons, "juice boxes" and other aseptic packaging.


Known Limitations
Many of the U-M's older buildings were not designed with adequate storage space for trash and recycling at loading dock areas. Renovations and modifications were necessary in many areas to allow for recycling dumpster and collection carts. New construction projects are now designed with recycling in mind.

Difficulty in gaining widespread participation is a challenge in implementing any recycling program. Constant education, feedback, and reminders must be given to faculty, staff, and students to maintain high participation levels.

Keeping materials free from contamination can be a challenge. Signs and labels used on recycling bins should be clear and visible, using icons, symbols or translation into other languages, if appropriate.

Demand for recovered materials is market dependent and varies greatly by region. Recycling efforts should not necessarily rely on revenue generated to justify a collection program. Other funding sources should be obtained to assist in keeping the program operating.


Safety & Health Precautions/Personal Protective Equipment
Follow all applicable safety and health protocols and regulations as established by your institution.


The benefits of the U-M's recycling program are numerous, including: conservation of natural resources, avoided landfill disposal cost, and generation of employment.


Food residue left on containers can attract nuisance pests.


Project Related Costs
The total cost of recycling is compared to solid waste handling using a "dollars per ton" measure. As collection efficiencies are gained, and the cost of material processing and market prices change, so does the comparison of costs. For example, when the program started in 1991, the cost to recycle (collect and process) was $261/ton and the cost of solid waste (collection and disposal) was $124/ton. In 1996, unit costs have decreased to $113/ton for recycling, and $98/ton for solid waste. As more materials are collected for recycling and economies of scale can be achieved, the differential cost between the two options diminishes.