The truth about recycling


(The Aug. 23 Roundup) had yet another letter from a citizen wanting recycling to come back and be made available by Gila County or the Town of Payson.

For what it’s worth, maybe I can shed some light on this subject.

Is recycling a good thing? Yes, absolutely. Is it a program that can be self-sustaining on its own two feet? No, mostly not. And why? Recycling isn’t a moneymaking thing, it’s a money-spending thing. Although any county, town or city isn’t in the business of turning a profit, it generally isn’t in the business of throwing good money after bad either.

I worked for the Pinal County, Arizona Public Works, Highway Department for a number of years before retiring last year. Back in 2003, I was assigned to the newly formed Pinal County Recycling Center, which was made possible by a grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Janet Napolitano was governor back then and out of the burning sands of Adamsville, Ariz., just a few miles west of Florence, a recycling center was constructed. We had a large Quonset hut-type tent with open ends almost half a football field long and a concrete slab floor that held our bailers.

A front-end loader and bailers were purchased to bail aluminum cans, newspaper, cardboard, pressboard, plastics, you name it. If it could be recycled, we processed it and shipped it out.

To make the best use of the taxpayers’ money, Pinal County contracted with the Arizona State Prison in Florence and employed prison inmates for most all the labor.

One county employee like myself would pull a trailer behind a truck and along with a crew of four inmates we would travel the county to the recycling drop off locations and haul it back to the facility.

Later we would acquire the roll on/roll off “cans” Gila County was using.

We had signs at each site telling people NOT to put garbage in with recycle material, but those signs were largely ignored.

Back then, recyclables were paying fairly well, but not enough to make such an operation feasible without that ADEQ grant.

The place was a beehive of activity until the grant ran out and then the wildly popular recycling program began to gradually get phased down.

Now, take all this into account and add in the fact the Chinese no longer are taking our recycling material as they cannot accommodate American garbage in their landfills. If it’s even a pizza box with tomato sauce and some dried cheese in it, it’s contaminated and discarded.

Even if recycling is brought back, where does the recycled material go? That market is dead right now.

Recycling is a great concept and very popular, but so far it’s also a money pit.

Bob Shamhart, Pine

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