On a recent Saturday morning at the Drop-Off Station on Ellsworth, a dozen people doing court-ordered community service milled around a car delivering two old computers for recycling. Business is down at the station–so much so that in March, it cut back from five to three days of operation (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday). The station also laid off one person and reduced the hours of the remaining three. “It was a tough call,” says Recycle Ann Arbor’s CEO Melinda Uerling, but after revenue fell $40,000 last year, she says, “it was the only way to keep the place open.”
Uerling says that the problem isn’t the city’s move to “single stream” recycling collection–it’s the loss of city and county subsidies. Last year, in an attempt to be totally self-supporting, the station imposed a $3 entry fee–only to see usage drop. That has Uerling again seeking government backing. Looking at similar stations around the country, she says, “there isn’t another model not supported by public funding.