Recycle Ann Arbor News
Friday, June 29, 2012
Putting Community First
Staff from Recycle Ann Arbor spent part of Friday morning assisting a resident of Walden Hills I Condos who was trying to locate a lost item, that may have been placed in a recycle cart in error. The gentleman had lost his dentures and believed that his cleaning company may have put them in with his recycling or his trash. To compound the problem, Friday was his service day. Recycle Ann Arbor staff contacted the route driver to delay service for a few hours, and three staff members went to the site to see if they could assist the customer.
An ongoing challenge with condos and other multi-family units is that recycling carts, stored at a central location, are shared by a number of units. This makes it extremely difficult to identify whose recycling is in which cart. In this case, the resident’s recycling may have gone in one of 16 recycling carts or four trash dumpsters.
Staff emptied every 96-gallon recycling cart and sorted through all the materials to try to find the dentures, which were believed to be in a foam cup. Initially the process was fast as the recycling was clean, well sorted and loosely packed. However no teeth were found in the carts located closest to the resident’s home. RAA staff moved on to the second cart location, and several residents stopped while passing, to ask what was happening. The people that stopped thanked RAA staff for being so community minded, and for trying to resolve the situation. At this location, the customer joined RAA staff to see how the search was going. As a disabled person, he was unable to sort through the carts himself.
The second site was not so easy to sort. At first, the carts contained clean, well-sorted material, but with only two carts left the situation deteriorated rapidly. One cart contained a vast quantity of peanut butter jars which had the lids still on and hadn’t been washed out. In the same cart were unrinsed yogurt cups, foam cups sealed in ziplock bags (containing the original liquids), and general unsanitary trash. The items smelled offensive and RAA staff transferred them to plastic bags and into the trash dumpster. The customer identified this waste stream as his, and said the teeth would be in a cup sealed in a bag. Although staff looked at each cup in each bag, no dentures were apparent.
Although Recycle Ann Arbor staff were unable to locate the missing item, the process did allow staff to identify the source of a serious contamination problem. Usually, in multi-family units such as condos, it is difficult to establish who exactly is responsible for contamination. However, on his occasion the customer was able to identify that his cleaning company were taking out his trash and placing it in the recycling cart. He was informed to advise them to place all trash bags in the trash dumpster.
RAA staff were disappointed that they didn’t locate the resident’s dentures, but the process was a worthwhile exercise in addressing contamination issues. Recycle Ann Arbor urge all residents to familiarize themselves with sorting and preparation guidelines for Ann Arbor’s curbside recycling service.