Originally Published: November 19, 2008 9:42 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Even as the faltering economy shrinks the amount of garbage that local residents are producing, city solid waste experts tout one bright spot in the local industry: recycling.
"Even with the way the economic times are right now, we're taking in 300 tons (of recycled materials) a month," said Chad McDowell, field operations manager for the city.
That is up by about 200 tons in recent years, McDowell said, adding that the new level is remaining constant, even though the volume of garbage in general "is falling way down."
McDowell and Field Operations Superintendent Jim Sutton emphasize that a direct link exists between the economy and garbage volumes.
In tough economic times, people tend to buy less, they say, and that results in a reduction in the byproducts of life - the wrappings, boxes, and containers that all of those consumer goods come in.
Even so, a growing awareness of recycling, coupled with a recent addition of some types of plastics to what the city will accept, have helped to keep local recyclables coming in at a steady pace.
Earlier this year, the city expanded plastic recyclables from the mostly soda and water bottles (numbers 1 and 2) that it previously accepted to include hard plastics such as shampoo bottles and sour cream containers (numbers 3 through 7) as well.
Stormy Gormley, accounting technician at the city's field operations office, pointed out that the numbers are usually visible on the bottoms or sides of plastic containers, inside the triangular logo that symbolizes recycling.
McDowell said his department received regular requests from customers, asking for an expansion to include more plastics. That led the city to approach its recycling handlers about the change, and the companies agreed.
Along with the expansion in plastics, McDowell said the recycling program is benefiting from a number of other factors as well.
For instance, he pointed to the city's change in recent years from 32-gallon containers to 68-gallon recycling containers.
Customer awareness is also figuring into the equation. Sutton said some of the community's newest subdivisions have the highest levels of participation in recycling, leading him to believe that newcomers - especially those from California - are helping to drive the increase in recycling.
And for many people, recycling is simply becoming a way of life, Sutton said, adding, "It's starting to bug people to throw anything away."
And that is what the city is trying to promote with its recent improvements, McDowell said.
"We want to make it so easy to recycle that people won't have a choice," he said.
Although the news in recycling is good on a local level, McDowell and Sutton point out that the worldwide situation is not as positive. Prices for many recycled materials, including paper, have plummeted, they say, as the demand for new products has gone down.
But because of long-term contracts that the city has with its recycling handlers, Prescott's costs are staying constant.
The city currently pays Norton Environmental of Flagstaff $10 per ton to haul and handle its residential recycling, and receives $10 per ton from Mattera Enterprises Recycling of Dewey for handling its commercial recyclables.
That compares with the more than $50 per ton that the city pays to haul and dispose of its regular trash at the landfill.
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