How much do Farmington residents recycle? Tons.

Nearly half of all Farmington households recycle, putting the community “head and shoulders” above not only its neighbors but state and national rates.

Mike Csapo, general manager of Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County (RRRASOC), told city officials Monday that Farmington residents recycle at triple Michigan’s overall rate and 37 percent above the national rate.

RRRASOC app
The Recycling Authority smartphone app shows residents how to dispose of waste.

At the same time, local costs are 23 percent below the regional median. “You demonstrate that you have a very sharp pencil,” Csapo said.

The energy Farmington saved through recycling would run 78 households for a year, avoided 3.3 tons of water pollution, and conserved nearly 5,900 trees, he added.

Council member Maria Taylor asked which of RRRASOC’s other communities are top recyclers, and Csapo named neighboring Farmington Hills, Wixom, and Novi. However, he said, even those on the low end are high performers compared to state-wide averages.

Csapo said RRRASOC, which handles recycling for nine southwest Oakland communities through a facility in Southfield, will focus this year on improving the quality of material. Users can type in the name of a material at rrrasoc.org and through a “Recycling Authority” smartphone app to learn whether items can be dropped into their recycling containers.

Items not on the list contaminate the end product, which makes it more difficult to sell.

“The more we can focus on quality, the better off we are,” Csapo said.

RRRASOC is also in the “very early stages” of investigating new technology, including containers that are wi-fi enabled and notify haulers when they’re full. Other containers have interchangeable panels to promote local businesses, events, or civic notices.

Council member Joe LaRussa asked about recycling in multifamily communities, which Csapo said is challenging due to the logistics of locating containers. Apartment residents typically have less to recycle.

“Residents have to demand it of folks managing the apartment facilities,” Csapo said.

In answer to a question posed by Mayor Pro Tem Sara Bowman, he also explained why RRRASOC will likely never recycle the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag.

“They’re incredibly difficult to pull from the stream, they get tangled up in our equipment,” Csapo said. “Even though it seems like plastic bags are everywhere… it takes 200,000 plastic bags to make a bale, and I have to have 30 bales on a truck before I can ship it.”

Also, while officials have identified some small niche markets, the only large market for the bags lies in energy – in other words, burning them.

“That’s really not the solution we were looking for,” Csapo said.

Correction: The original post incorrectly identified how many plastic bags are required to make a bale, and how many bales are required to ship. 

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