The city rolled out the new all-in-one-cart system in mid-2010, and the next year, collections of paper, glass, and plastic jumped 16 percent, to 10,127 tons. But that was it. In the fiscal year ending last June, volume increased by less than 1 percent.
"We got the big increase because of bigger carts and taking more materials," says Kendra Pyle, senior recycling coordinator at Recycle Ann Arbor. "We expected it to level off."
But nobody expected it to level off so soon. A consultant had assured the city that volume would double, to 18,000 tons a year--thanks largely to an incentive program run by a company called Recyclebank. When the promised increase failed to materialize, council canceled that contract last year.
The underwhelming response saddled RAA, an independent nonprofit, with a $338,000 shortfall in the first year of the transition. The city voluntarily renegotiated their contract, and between that bailout and internal cuts, there'll be no shortfall this year: "We're tracking to roughly the same $4.5 million budget," says Kirk Lignell, the group's new CEO.