BY LARA ZADE
Published February 2, 2009
LSA freshman Alex Levine has a plan to give a greener fate to the sea of red plastic cups that layer the city’s streets after every home football game.
Levine is working with the Ann Arbor City Council to enable the city to include polystyrene, or No. 6 plastic — the type of plastic from which those plastic cups are made — in its current recycling code.
Currently, the city only recycles No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, meaning that all No. 6 plastics, including the red or blue plastic cups commonly used for tailgating, are thrown away.
Levine thought of the idea after entering a contest through “MPowered,” a University group that exposes students to entrepreneurial opportunities. He entered the “Green Campus” category because he thought the city accumulated too much waste.
After becoming a finalist for the “Green Campus” category, Levine felt confident enough to pitch his idea to City Council.
“I thought, I can’t just stop here,” he said. “I really wanted to implement it, and that’s why I went to City Council.”
Levine first introduced his proposal to City Council at its Jan. 20 meeting. Since then, he has talked to some members who informed him that the issue of expanding the city’s recycling policy was not a new idea.
Margie Teall (D–Ward 4), one of the council members who contacted Levine, said in an e-mail interview that the city’s recycling options are something the City Council continues to monitor.
Bryan Weinert, the solid waste coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor, released a written response to address residents’ concern over plastics recycling about 16 months ago.
In his statement, Weinert acknowledged that the city has been conservative in adding new materials to its recycling program because of the criteria that have to be considered before allowing new plastic products to be recycled.
For the recycling program to be changed, Weinert said in his statement that the city must ensure that there is a long-term market for the plastic product, that it generates enough volume to be economically beneficial and that it can be stored on-site at recycling facilities for a given period of time.
Weinert added that there are facilities that recycle No. 6 plastic in Michigan, but that many of them ship the plastic materials to processing plants overseas.
Both Teall and Weinert agreed that the city is hesitant to give materials to facilities that ship abroad because of the environmental, health and safety and economic conditions associated with processing plastic in developing countries.
Despite this setback, Levine was not discouraged about the possibility of his proposal and spoke again at last night’s City Council meeting to discuss his ideas.
Levine said he plans on doing more research to find places that are closer to Ann Arbor that don’t send plastics overseas.
“I would like the city to work with one of the facilities I find after my research to recycle No. 6 plastic,” he said.
In addition, Levine wants to garner support from the University to further his proposal.
“The University and Ann Arbor are so closely related,” he said. “If the University would get behind this idea I think the city would take a bigger look into this.”