City will no longer accept paper for recycling (copy)

A Sierra Vista recycling pickup vehicle removes recyclables from a neighborhood in 2018. The city ended curbside recycling collection in 2019, with several changes to both public and private collections occurring since then.

A lot of changes have taken place in the past decade to fulfill the city of Sierra Vista’s needs and demands for recycling in the community and surrounding areas.

The city issued a press release on May 22, 2019, announcing it would end curbside pickup services and offer recyclables to be collected at a drop-off facility beginning on July 1, 2019, at no charge. The following year, the city announced that it would close its recycling drop-off facility on March 1, 2020.

Sierra Vista originally offered weekly pickups for recyclables beginning in 2012 without a fee since it was able to cover costs by selling the recyclables.

According the city’s press release on Jan 24, 2020, since opening the drop-off facility, the city collected an average of about 5% of what was collected in its curbside recycling program. Costs to transport the recyclable materials to a processing facility in Tucson have significantly exceeded what the city and its recycling vendor have been able to receive from the sale of recyclable materials.

The city council conducted an in-depth review regarding the entire refuse enterprise fund and had an open discussion that allowed for a 30-day public comment before reaching a vote regarding rate increases and changes to recycling services.

The lack of global demand for recyclables beginning in 2018 contributed to the significant changes.

Two private companies that offer recycling curbside and pickup services — Recyclops and Bolstering Buffalo —approached the city at that time. Recyclops acquired Bolstering Buffalo recently, which makes it the only recycling pickup service for the city.

Public Works Director Sharon Flissar said Sierra Vista’s original recycling program had several versions. She said that 22 years ago there were drop-off sites in parking lots around the city.

The city then transitioned to a voluntary curbside program with bags for recycles at no additional cost.

Later, the program went to the use of blue bins for curbside pickup. The city had two garbage pickups per week but made one of those designated for recycling.

The city returned to two garbage pickups per week and eliminated its recycling program due to the decline in the recycling market, allowing for competition from private vendors, according to Flissar

Flissar said that since the collapse of the worldwide market for recyclables and in order to sustain recycling services, the city would have had to charge more for the service.

“We avoided having to raise rates on customers to cover recycling options,” she said.

Flissar said that by transitioning to privatized recycling, it gave people who valued and wanted recycling services as a readily available option.

“Those who didn’t want to recycle or could not afford that extra charge in their monthly budget, they were given the choice to not do that,” she said.

The city does have the option for a special pickup service generally on Wednesdays for bulky item collections. It also allows for green waste collection free of charge.

The marketing representative for Recyclops, Calvin Carpenter, said the company has been expanding rapidly in the last year and that the business model is to bring recycling to communities throughout the United States.

Carpenter said a lot of communities have cut their recycling programs in the past year or two. He said Recyclops gives residents a chance to continue recycling.

“We look for cities that don’t currently have access to recycling or places where the city might have discontinued their current recycling program and we saw that was the case with Sierra Vista,” Carpenter said. “We saw that there were people who were passionate about recycling, who wanted to recycle but had limited options, so we just of kind of stepped in and wanted to provide our service.

“Our goal eventually is to get every single community in the United States recycling regardless of how big or small. We want everybody to have access to recycling.”

He said one of the growth strategies is acquiring smaller recycling companies that have a similar mindset or values that align with the company. Hence, the recent merge with the smaller private company Bolstering Buffalo.

“Most of the time we expand naturally, we just expand in new markets that don’t currently have any recycling,” Carpenter said.

He said Recyclops is still a small company and emerging from a startup phase. The company began as a startup in Utah.

Recyclops has a team of independent contractors who use their own vehicles to complete the recycling tasks throughout the city. Carpenter said they will often hire those who have pickup trucks or trailers which are able to hold a lot of volume and produce a smaller carbon footprint compared to traditional, larger recycling trucks.

The recycling company accepts traditional recyclables such as aluminum cans, plastic bottles, paper, cardboard and glass.

Carpenter said its subscription fee for recycling averages about $12. In some areas, the company would collect glass for a slightly higher fee.

He said the subscription fee they charge to collect recyclables helps offset any fluctuation in the market.

“With that fee, we make sure that your recyclables are taken care of and go where they need to go to be in order to be repurposed and reused,” Carpenter said.