With just over 400,000 residents in Phoenix, the recent developments in our recycling program have worsened. Rates haven’t changed in over 10 years, but now there’s going to be a 2% price hike! According to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, they don’t want to be the biggest US city without a recycling program. Currently, the monthly cost for solid wastes is 26.80 (per household), and just to maintain their program now it could charge another 4-6 dollars.
It’s 2020 folks and Phoenix is being forced to shut down many local city recycling programs. With foreign export of items that are going to China, the accepted amounts are declining at a rapid pace. While the recent COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in worthy recycling, cut-backs, cost increases, and closures of existing programs are at a record high.
There are also other options on the table that would change the collection services that also could likely end the recycling program. But another solution might only limit recycling pick-up to bi-weekly instead. Worse yet, the problem has escalated to the point of Public Works calling for $36.5 million in service cuts if there isn’t a rate increase that is approved very soon. With many cities that are following the same situation as Phoenix, the problem of finding a solution is looking bleak.
What can we do to stem the flow of items that are meant for recycling?
It’s time to learn what can be done currently.
Viable solutions are now in the works but will take time to see the effects. We need to spread the word about proper recycling through education more than ever before. It’s not enough for Public Works to educate Arizona residents now, since their failure to make their recycling program effective has backfired. Since 2017, the program has been worsening because the right kind of education on recycling wasn’t properly outlined. Greg Stanton, then mayor of Phoenix, now a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said he wanted to see Phoenix as a zero waste city. While he took the lead to improve Phoenix’s recycling efforts there’s still much work to be done as new mayor Kate Gallego carries the torch with Phoenix ranking 48 in Greenest cities in the U.S.
Last year, a new program model was outlined to help everyone understand what recycling is all about. This is why the 5S model was introduced. The basics of the 5S model include support, serve, sort, save, and sell.
Yet as easy as it sounds, we also need to understand what recyclable items are in the first place. Since not every item that is recycled is suitable or likely to be recycled, here is a basic run-down.
Surprise, Casa Grande, Globe, Sierra Vista, and Mesa have all seen drastic reductions and a halt in their recycling programs. Further cuts will need to be made if these programs can restart correctly. This disruption in service will most likely spread to other cities unless the awareness is spread through the proper education about recycling. The rising cost of unrecyclable materials is now costing Phoenix millions per year because of improper items that make recycling ineffective. But this doesn’t need to be the case anymore.
Since recycling in Phoenix is up 20%, the current export to China is down to 3.3 million this fiscal year. This means that local governments are doing their best to educate everyone on new methods of proper recycling. Through the help of private and public partnerships, we can now learn about items that can be repurposed. Where items can be sold and resold under this concept, and create new jobs as a result.
It’s very likely many cities will have bi-weekly service with a price hike. Other cities haven’t fared as well with the suspension of recycling programs altogether. Then there are select cities that are offering free drop-off days for recyclables. It’s now in our hands to spread the word on how to throw away plastics, paper, and other green organics. We cannot wait any longer in our state for officials to solve this problem, as we also are to blame. As hard as it sounds to hear, the decrease in export sales to China is not by accident.
And as a result, jobs were lost and families were affected. With such large amounts of unusable items mixed into viable recyclables, it’s no wonder that these programs are shutting down. We need to rethink how we look at our trash and start making a difference before it gets out of control. We need to take broad steps in starting volunteer programs in our offices and in our communities.
The impact of this new model will depend on each city and their ability to make this program easy-to-use for everyone. As we are all responsible for the increase of items that are meant for recycling, everyone needs to pitch in as a collaborative effort.
Many cities are now offering information and education on what items are accepted and what is not. Since many local residents may not know what items can be recycled, the success of proper sorting needs to be a major priority.
Landfills are not easy to manage and are growing due to the increase in recycled items that end up in our landfill areas. Many cities are pushing their efforts to educate residents to reduce the amount of waste that may otherwise not end-up in the wrong place.
The sustainable opportunity for items that can be recycled correctly is a matter of business growth. Chinese recycling companies have ceased buying recyclable material from Phoenix because it wasn’t worth their time or effort to sort out the amount of unacceptable material that was included. This has led to a drastic decrease in buying material that has hurt the Phoenix recycling budget. As a result, jobs were lost and programs are halting all across the State.
As every office has a manager, every club will have a leader too. We need to have more involvement with approaching leaders in our local communities to make our recycling program work! To make a change in how we recycle, our leaders need to make a difference in how they lead right now. We should start talking to every member in the chamber of commerce to the local Mason and Rotary Club members. Our Firemen and Police should know as well. We cannot afford to pay more for services that should have been effective from day one!
If we stand up for our rights to keep our recycling programs running, we have to power to force our leaders into immediate action. They can organize larger volunteer groups that can create a city-wide dialog that everyone can understand. This should detail what goes into the recycle bin and what doesn’t. It’s a duty that we owe to ourselves and can create new jobs in the process. If we put pressure on our leaders now, we can avoid further price hikes and service cuts as well.
The current cost increases for recycling bins that have been seen are an example of how it affects you. And now is the time to correct the past mistakes that have led to further cuts in local programs and services. But knowing the right kind of items that go into the Blue Bin and other sorting bins can help bring back these programs and help make them profitable again. Here is what is acceptable for recycling in Phoenix:
Bottles, jugs, and containers that are clean and washed off are the best recyclable items that are recommended.
White paper, junk mail ads, newspaper that isn’t soiled with food of oil, or has little plastic windows on paper envelopes are best for this kind of paper recycling.
Boxes and cardboard items that have the plastic tape removed are the best in this category. A little extra time to remove plastic tape greatly increases the recycling process for cardboard.
Bottles and jars must be washed out and clean before these can be allowed for recycling.
Cans, foil, and containers must be all clean so the process of melting these items down is easier. The least amount of contaminants on the aluminum make this sort of recycling cleaner and more effective.
Cans and containers that have plastic linings in them will otherwise be melted away in the melting process but that doesn’t mean there should also be clean inside before they are sorted.
Fast food containers and cups that have a waxy liner are not allowed in the recycle bin. Or anything that has a plastic liner attached to the paper. This includes paper plates, drink boxes, box wine, and other kinds of paper containers that store long-term food supplies. It’s common to most of us that plastic bags aren’t good for recycling since they jam-up the shredding machines. For the same reason that bubble wrap, plastic packing or wrapping material, and plastic utensils are a bad idea too.
And while pizza boxes sound like a good idea for recycling cardboard, the level of grease and oil contaminated the paper making it useless. It also presents a problem when these are shredded and jam-up machines because of the oil on the cardboard. These are sadly meant for the landfill and will degrade naturally over time. If these items are avoided going into the recycle bin, the amount of material that can be sold overseas can increase. But only if everyone works together in their cities to ensure this is a constant task.
Aside from the recent increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Phoenix, many more people are forced to be at home. That shouldn’t be a bigger problem if the number of items that are intended for recycling in Phoenix is properly sorted, cleaned, and put in the recycle bin. Some cities are announcing a free drop-off day at local recycle plants for those who wish to drop off their items. This is offered for those who have been affected by cut-backs and recycle service suspension. Be sure to contact your city hall for the latest updates on a recycling solution where you live.
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