Arizona Cities Face Recycling Collapse Without State, Federal Dollars

By Heather van Blokland
Published: Friday, August 23, 2019 - 8:21am

Tucson will reduce its recycling collection to every other week starting the last week of September. The announcement comes a week after Surprise halted its program.

Several cities in Arizona are making adjustments since China stopped buying U.S. recyclables almost two years ago. But, Phoenix is still maintaining its services.

"Different states have different programs so in California, there are a lot of state grant programs, etc. Arizona from a state program perspective doesn’t have a lot. The cities are typically the ones bearing that in Arizona," said Joe Giudice, assistant Public Works director for the city of Phoenix. He said every city in Arizona has to figure out its own solution.

"Cities and residents eventually at some point will have to address the fact that the revenue that was generated from the sale of recyclables — that the costs of processing recyclables have changed, or at least in today’s market, and those additional costs have to be paid for," he said.

Textiles and food are common items that contaminate recyclables and make them costly to process. The added expense is too high for many cities to absorb and programs are reducing or stopping.

In Arizona, costs are being absorbed at the city level. In other states, like California, state-level grant programs help pay for expenses. And some cities, including Phoenix are now turning to private investors to help pay for some portion of recycling programs.

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