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City of Ann Arbor and Composting Partner, WeCare Denali, Taking Steps to Reduce Plastic in Compost

Archived News Release: October 18, 2023 - ​The City of Ann Arbor, in collaboration with its contracted compost site operator, WeCare Denali, is changing the kinds of manufactured compostable products accepted for processing at the City's compost facility. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, only compostable products made of fiber will be accepted. The Compost Manufacturer's Alliance (CMA) now offers a variety of certifications to products that have met industry standards for properly breaking down in a myriad of composting technologies, including compost windrows (mounds of compostable material) like those used at the Ann Arbor compost site.

This change aims to reduce contamination in the final compost product and reduce windblown litter at the compost site. Only fiber, paper, items will be accepted. Manufactured compostable items made from plastics can be nearly indistinguishable from traditional petroleum-based plastics, and lead to traditional plastics in the compost stream and compostable materials in the recycling stream. Additionally, plastic items labeled as compostable tend to be lighter weight than other materials and “float" to the top of the piles, becoming a prime candidate for windblown litter.

The City is recognizing this change may be frustrating to those who rely on previously advertised compostable plastic products, either as part of their business or in their home. However, experience with plastics has revealed that they cause confusion, contamination and litter leading to poor-quality compost as well as a degraded environment, the City notes. One area where this frustration might be greatest is with plastic kitchen compost liners, which will no longer be accepted. The City encourages people with those composters to either go liner free or use paper/fiber-based products.     

To assist residents and businesses in navigating this change, the City has developed a website with more detailed information about CMA-W certified material, including lists of products and distributors. To keep it simple, the City advises: If it is plastic, it is not accepted. 

The City of Ann Arbor continues to emphasize that single-use items, even if compostable, are not a solution to climate change or pollution of the environment. The City has adopted the goal of reduce, reuse, recycle, noting it represents the best way to reach its goals. First, strive to reduce materials used. Second, find ways to reuse what has already been produced. Finally, recycle material that conserves energy and saves natural resources like metals and paper.

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Media Contact Information

Robert Kellar
Communications Specialist
734.794.6000 ext. 41524
[email protected]

Ann Arbor has 123,851 residents, spans 28.97 square miles and is frequently recognized as a foremost place to live, learn, work, thrive and visit. To keep up with City of Ann Arbor information, subscribe for email updates, and follow the city on Twitter and Facebook. The city's mission is to deliver exceptional services that sustain and enhance a vibrant, safe and diverse community.