More than 400 Payson residents plunked down $19.20 each for a year's worth of recycling service, and in the past four months, their newspapers, magazines, bottles and cans were picked up by Arizona Recycling Curbside Specialists.
Even though Arizona Recycling collected more than $8,000 from Rim country customers, not a single bag of garbage was taken to a recycling center.
Instead, it was thrown into a mini-storage unit on Main Street and tossed into five commercial trash containers at the Waste Management garbage company in Payson.
Tyler Tabar, owner of Arizona Recycling, announced last week that his company is out of business.
"It doesn't surprise me that the stuff is still there," said Marie Fritz, Arizona Recycling's only Payson employee. "Of course it's still there. I was always waiting for a van or a big truck to come pick this stuff up, and I was always promised that things were just fine."
But things weren't fine, Fritz said, even from the start. Weeks after the program began in November 2000, Tabar was bombarded with phone calls from customers who wanted to sign up for weekly service, she said. By December, Tabar had more customers than he could handle, which forced him to rework his business plan several times, Fritz said.
From the beginning, Tabar said, he put the blue and white bags of recyclables his company collected from 425 homeside curbs every week into storage. He said he planned to stow the trash until he figured out how to transport the garbage to a Valley recycling center.
But while Tyler Tabar was struggling with transportation problems, his father, Dick, continued to put a positive spin on the program.
"Things are going great. I have no complaints," he said in December. "The routes have been smoothed out, we've got people knowing when they're going to get picked up, we're getting them to get their bags out on time ... so it's working out real well."
In the meantime, the storage unit on Main Street was filling up, and Tabar had to strike a deal to use Waste Management commercial garbage bins to handle the overflow.
"There was no contract," Melodi Deaton, site manager for Waste Management, said. "We just had a verbal agreement for him to use one or two bins to store bags until they could be taken down to a Valley recycling center."
Deaton said Tabar was only supposed to use Waste Management's bins for a short time, but kept throwing more bags in each week.
"We would find him in the back lot filling more," she said. "Finally, in February, since (Tabar) hadn't taken anything down to be recycled, I cut him off."
Although Tabar's recycling program seemed to be falling apart by February, Payson Town Councilmember Barbara Brewer said town officials were still holding out hope.
"Dick told me in February that the company was reorganizing and that collections would resume in two weeks," Brewer said. "Two weeks later, he said it would be another two weeks."
By then, it was too late. The mountain of blue and white bags had reached its peak one full storage unit, five garbage bins at Waste Management and a few borrowed trailers from the City of Glendale.
According to Fritz, Dick Tabar has left the state, leaving his son, customers and local garbage companies holding the bag.
"If you were to know Ty, you would know he is an honorable person," Fritz said. "He wasn't out to defraud anyone, he was trying to make this work. And now ... Ty lost his business and he's losing his house."
Tabar said Friday he has no idea how he's going to dig himself out of this mess, or how he'll make it up to his Payson customers.
He said he has received a letter from the Gila County Attorney's office inquiring about his intentions.
"I'm still in a situation where I need to legally figure out what to do," he said. "I was not out to scam people. I lost everything I had trying to make this work. All the money collected up front from the customers went right into serving those customers. We didn't make a dime off this."