Nonprofit a classic example in an industry that must 'recycle itself'
The state’s only recycling nonprofit battles much economic adversity
SEDONA – Changes for one of the largest recycling firms in the area are adjustments to national and international shifts in the industry— and the future, under current arrangements, seems as murky as ever.
Sedona Recycling, the only nonprofit of its type in Arizona and one of only a few recycling nonprofits in the U.S., has changed its lineup of dropoff locations around the Verde Valley, and at least more change is coming soon.
Jill McCutcheon, the executive director of Sedona Recycling, said that due to historic drops in material pricing and an aging truck, the nonprofit has made changes to how it operates.
“We can only work with communities that recognize the importance of the services we provide and the willingness to fund those services,” McCutcheon said. “We will continue to fine-tune our operation in order to be able to continue as an organization. We have been doing what we do for 30 years and have no intention of stopping. At the same time, we have to make business decisions that allow us to keep going and work as efficiently as possible without compromising material quality that allows us to have a 98-percent-plus provable recovery and recycling rate.”
McCutcheon said countries that once bought recyclable materials no longer take the dirty materials produced by this these collection methods. This has caused a glut of material in the domestic markets and due to oversupply has brought pricing to the lowest in history.
Unfortunately, according to Economist.com, of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s, only 9 percent has been recycled and another 12 percent incinerated, making it difficult in the uphill battle to continually convince some governments that recycling is worthwhile.
China is a major factor in the logjam, as its leaders recently decided to end years of purchasing plastic, primarily from the U.S.
Not to mention, since Sedona Recycling opened in 1989, many local trash pickup services have added recycling.
Yavapai County pays Sedona Recycling to place and empty dropoff containers throughout the Verde Valley. Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Garrison said the nonprofit’s contract with the county is up for review by September — so the time is now to figure out how much to subsidize the process, or how to bring it closer to breaking even.
“The value in the concept of re-use hasn’t diminished, but the way a recycling outfit is getting paid has changed a lot, just in the last six months,” Garrison said. “While we can’t see letting large parts of the northern part of the county going unserved, we’ll have to change something.”
Garrison said it isn’t only plastics that are part of the problem, even though manufacturers began selling more than one million plastic bottles per minute, worldwide, in 2017. He said the price paid per ton of cardboard has dropped from a 2016 spike of about $140 to only about $6 currently.
Garrison said in addition to municipalities not supporting Sedona Recycling — Cottonwood went with a lower bidder some time ago, and has since gone with Patriot, and Clarkdale opted out as well —trash pileups at locations of multiple bins has become a large cleanup expense.
“On a recent weekend, that site on Camino Real, by Mingus Union High School, had 16 mattresses there,” Garrison said. “People either got out of the habit of only taking truly recyclable goods, or they never got into it. Either way, that’s a lot of hauling.”
McCutcheon said while refuse services have certainly made recycling a much more accepted part of American life, their collection methods of single-stream and mixed-waste have been instrumental in bringing recycling to where it is today.
“The impact, locally, has been that people who used to understand the important part they play in the process, no longer do, because they do not participate in the separation of recyclables, and see everything as trash,” McCutcheon said. “They hope someone can recover something out of their garbage, but don’t know if that happens, and, mostly, it doesn’t. It is called wishful recycling.”
McCutcheon said the list of dropoff locations on Sedona Recycling’s website, sedonarecycles.org, is current, including the location in Jerome. However, the Verde Village Clubhouse location will most likely be removed in the next few weeks — ending the nonprofit’s presence, as has happened before, in the greater Cottonwood area.
“That will affect about 30,000 people,” Garrison said.
McCutcheon said while funding and equipment are huge factors, so is continuing to inform the public about the importance of consumers separating recyclables, before donating or selling them.
“We are an educational nonprofit,” McCutcheon said. “We cannot stress enough that people have to be smart enoug