I am writing in response to Dan Engler's commentary, "Free enterprise spells end of government subsidies for recycling," and Tom Tracey's article, "Recycling bins may go away in Camp Verde." As a Sedona Recycles employee since 2008, and a Camp Verde resident from 2012 until just a few months ago, I would like to clear up some gross misconceptions and assertions in these two pieces.
Sedona Recycles is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1989 and initially served only Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. Camp Verde was the first community in the Verde Valley to start recycling collection, in 1999. From 1999-2010, Sedona Recycles worked with the Town of Camp Verde to provide recycling service to the public, and from 2006-2010 this service was performed under contract.
You may have noticed I said contract, not subsidy. That's because Sedona Recycles provides a service to governments and businesses. Those services are contracted. Sedona Recycles bids on many of those contracts, just as all other recycling providers are able to do, in the free market. Sedona Recycles does not receive any kind of government subsidies.
In 2008, Sedona Recycles opened a second recycling site in Camp Verde, at the Outpost Mall on Finnie Flats Rd. Recycling volumes started increasing rapidly, and in 2010, when they requested an increase in the contract price to account for the rapidly increasing service in Camp Verde, the Town Council opted to cancel its contract with Sedona Recycles. In 2013, after providing recycling service for free for three years (worth approximately $22,800 per year), the Town agreed to give Sedona Recycles $6,000 from its operational surplus. This non-budgeted, non-contracted payment of $6,000 has continued for the past three years.
The true cost of service to Camp Verde has not changed, but after six years of Sedona Recycles (and taxpayers and businesses from other communities) subsidizing Camp Verde's recycling program, Sedona Recycles is requesting that the Town pay for the services they are receiving, just as they pay waste haulers to collect trash at the parks, or citizens pay for their water and electricity. No for-profit waste hauler would provide you with free service for three years and then give you a discount of 70 percent for several more years just because you didn't want to pay your bill.
Let me repeat that more clearly, since both Mr. Engler's and Mr. Tracey's articles got this point wrong: Sedona Recycles did not suddenly raise prices. In reality, Sedona Recycles has not been fairly compensated for their services since 2010, and is now requesting that the Town pay for the services provided from this point forward.
An intergovernmental panel met this spring to determine the true cost of providing recycling to the communities in Sedona and the Verde Valley and recommend what each community should pay to receive service from Sedona Recycles.
The City of Sedona agreed to increase their payment. Jerome's price stayed the same. Cottonwood opted to continue abstaining from paying for service. Clarkdale and Yavapai County (which serves Cornville, Rimrock, Verde Village and the Village of Oak Creek) are in the middle of contracts, so no changes have yet been made. Camp Verde was asked to pay $19,380.
Now we wait to see what the Town of Camp Verde will decide to do. Will Sedona Recycles finally receive just compensation for their services? Or will they have to make the difficult decision to abandon the recyclers of Camp Verde?
You may wonder why Sedona Recycles continued to provide recycling service when the Town of Camp Verde stopped paying for it. Quite simply, because they believe that recycling is important to the community and it was the right thing to do. At that time, high prices for recycled materials helped offset the cost of serving Camp Verde. Sedona Recycles provided that service out of pocket.
They could have been saving money to purchase new equipment or increase cash reserves, but they opted instead to provide Camp Verde residents with a service that is important to so many. As material prices declined, the burden of providing service to Camp Verde shifted. Essentially, for the past several years, other local governments have been subsidizing Camp Verde's recycling program.
Speaking of subsidies, Sedona Recycles has been providing free paper recycling to the Verde Independent, the Camp Verde Bugle's sister paper, for 10 years. Sedona Recycles has collected their paper because they hated to see it end up in the landfill, while saving the Verde Independent money on waste collection. Is this free enterprise coming to the rescue? No, this is a nonprofit organization working so hard to do the right thing that they get taken advantage of.
This hypocrisy is startling and disappointing. Sedona Recycles should be compensated for their services to communities and businesses, including the Town of Camp Verde and the Verde Independent, just as any other free enterprise recycling provider would. Thank you for making this point for us, Mr. Engler.
Cottonwood is in the same boat. Removing the recycling sites that Sedona Recycles serviced in city limits just shifted volumes to the recycling site behind Mingus Union High School that is funded by Yavapai County.
So now, Cottonwood's recycling program is essentially subsidized by Yavapai County. Camp Verde residents do not have such a convenient option. If the bins are removed in Camp Verde, residents will have to drive their recycling to another town.
Let us stop shifting the burden to other communities and take responsibility for paying for the services we receive.
During the past four years that I lived in Camp Verde, the cheapest option for disposing of waste was driving my garbage to the transfer station for $1 a bag and taking my recycling to the Heritage Pool drop-off site near my home.
Curbside trash and recycling providers could never compete with my out of pocket cost of $1-$2 per month for waste disposal. And the fraction of my tax dollars that would fund those recycling sites would be well worth it.
I have been just as grateful to have access to Sedona Recycles' recycling drop-off sites as I am to enjoy Butler Park, the library, and the pool.
Recycling service is not a luxury; it is something that residents and businesses rely on to keep costs down and to do the right thing for the environment.
I hope that the Town of Camp Verde can see this and that Sedona Recycles will have the opportunity to continue providing this necessary service.