Tempe Recycles More, But Makes Less Green

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 2:55pm
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 3:03pm
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(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Paper recyling bin.

Tempe’s goal is to divert 40 percent of residential waste away from the landfill by 2020. Right now, about 25 percent of Tempe residential waste escapes the dump.

But the financial incentive for the city to recycle isn’t as strong as it used to be.

Tempe and other cities collect recyclables, sort them and sell them by the ton across the country and internationally. In Tempe’s case, it contracts with a private company to do so.

Steven Pietrzykowsky, Tempe’s solid waste services manager, says even though more people recycle, what they pitch in weighs less than it used to.

“Well when you go to the grocery store, all you really need to do is look on the shelves,” Pietrzykowsky said. “You’re seeing a lot of additional flexible packaging, thinner bottles, less glass.”

The oil market also plays a role.

“When the cost of oil is low and it costs less to make new products, it really deteriorates the recyclable market,” Pietrzykowsky said.

Pietrzykowsky says despite the uncertain financial gain, recycling remains a priority.

“Landfill space is finite, that’s Number 1,” Pietrzykowsky said. “We want to stop burying material. We want to be good stewards of the environment.”

The city is also increasing its effort to compost food scraps and vegetation.

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