After pandemic delay, here’s how Detroit is ...

After pandemic delay, here’s how Detroit is expanding its recycling program

“Portland or Ann Arbor have had recycling programs for 30 years, but it’s fairly new here. Basic recycling education is something we’re still teaching people of all ages.”

This story is part of the Ask Planet Detroit series, designed to get you the info you need about health and the environment, from multifamily recycling to how air pollution will affect your kids. Ask your questions here.

Dear Planet Detroit, 

Have there been any updates with Detroit’s multifamily recycling program? I haven’t heard anything in a while.


Too Many Glass Bottles Here

Dear Too Many,

Indeed, many of us have been eagerly and patiently awaiting for the city to roll out its multifamily recycling service. When it first announced the program alongside a $783,000 grant to purchase equipment, the city said it was looking to launch in 2020

Unfortunately COVID-19 has delayed many city projects, including this one. But there’s still some good news. Nishaat Killeen, Detroit’s recycling coordinator, says a pilot phase of the program is going to begin this spring with multifamily buildings where the city’s Department of Public Works currently provides trash collection service. 

“This is a small portion of the multi-unit buildings in the city,” Killeen wrote to Planet Detroit by email. “In the meantime, multifamily residents can engage with their property managers and express an interest.”

She added that there’s no set date for when the program will be expanded to the rest of the city, but will depend on how the pilot phase goes. Eventually, the city hopes to include a whole range of apartment and commercial buildings, like churches, funeral homes, and barber shops. In total, multifamily buildings would make up just a portion of the eligible buildings.

What else should you expect? The recycling will be single stream, meaning all products — cardboard, glass, certain kinds of plastic, etc. — will go into a single bin just like the city’s residential curbside program. There will also be a small fee for the service. 

Green Living Science, a contractor on the recycling program, will be doing outreach and education for facilities that sign up. 

“We’re going to be communicating with these businesses, letting them know about the service, and seeing if they want to participate in the program,” Natalie Jakub, executive director at Green Living Science, told Planet Detroit.

Education is important, since sending non-recyclable items to the center can result in costly delays. “Portland or Ann Arbor have had recycling programs for 30 years, but it’s fairly new here,” Jakub said. “Basic recycling education is something we’re still teaching people of all ages.”

Jakub believes that multifamily and commercial recycling is going to make a substantial impact in the environmental health of the region. 

“There’s more people moving into the city, especially larger apartment buildings, with new ones being built every month,” she said. “Those apartments are sending tons of waste to our landfills. With this new recycling program, we’re going to start to create a culture of sustainability here in the city.”

In the meantime, residents of multifamily buildings can take their recycling to the Recycle Here! facility at 5960 Lincoln Street on Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Aaron Mondry is the editor of The Dig and a reporter who covers development, housing, architecture, real estate and land use in Detroit. He was previously the editor of Curbed Detroit.