Reflecting on the MRF Field Trip

By the entrance of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, colorful scraps of garbage flutter in the cool breeze. The garbage, resembling confetti, oddly creates a pleasant view, until the stench of the processing plant hits you.

The cool metal facility infrastructure, which doesn’t look sturdy enough to support tons of waste, let alone the heavy sorting machinery, is covered in broken pieces of glass and shredded paper waste. Facility workers climb the shaky metal steps, crunching on glass with their heavy boots, as they go back to their posts to sort more trash. The roaring of the machinery resumes, filling the room as the sounds bounce off the metal facility walls.

I really enjoyed today’s field trip, since seeing where my garbage goes has made me think about my consumption and recycle behaviors. However, I was shocked at how poorly the facility was kept. I kept telling myself it’s a garbage processing facility so of course it was going to be dirty and messy, but I couldn’t help but think about the workers’ safety. Surely their heavy boots kept their feet safe from the huge pieces of glass scattered across the ground, but what happens if a worker falls? The steps in the facility were narrow, and the flooring was uneven as the metal sheets lining the floor made strange sounds when stepped on. I realized that this came back to the funding problem discussed with McKenzie after the tour. If the plant was making more money, they could hire more people to better sort the trash with a smaller mess, or hire people to maintain the safety of the facility. However, I also realized that the issues with recycling in Michigan is not only rooted in the financial, macro level factors. Each individual as a consumer has the responsibility to be more conscious about the products they are buying, the packaging on these products, and with what materials they are made. I think it’s also important for each person to take it upon themselves to search how to recycle properly, so Michigan can get its recycling rates up from a micro level. For these reasons, I think it would be interesting to write a piece on marketing strategies that encourage people to recycle, as well as other incentives for consumers to recycle more, in a proper way.

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One Response to “Reflecting on the MRF Field Trip”

  1. Rae, I like your idea for a story on marketing strategies that promote recycling. There’s a lot of money spent trying to get us to buy things, and much less money spent trying to get us to recycle. It would be interesting to look at what the research shows about what kind of recycling campaigns might be most effective, from a psychological standpoint. The follow-up question is, who would fund them? This is the kind of news story that could provoke change.
    Nice scene-setting, too, by the way.

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