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Cunningham: Time to dump neighborhood recycling centers

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Cunningham: Time to dump neighborhood recycling centers

A few years ago, Environmental Services moved the neighborhood recycling center from Udall Park to the parking lot at the Ward 2 office.

One of the main reasons for the move was that people were using the NRC to dump trash. Environmental Services reported that everything from couches to televisions to, in one instance, a dead cat. Needless to say, that is not appropriate.

It was not just frustrating, but a lot of extra work for ES staff and staff at the materials recovery facility (the place where recyclables are processed). The choice was made to move not just our center but many others to high profile locations in the hopes that would discourage dumping.

For the most part, it has. There are still a few people that are, frankly, jerks that leave trash there when clearly that’s not what the recycling center is for.

The problem now is different. The trouble is that the center is overtaxed. Although, ES makes frequent pickups (even coming on Saturdays), the bins fill up quicker than they can be emptied. This means that people are piling up recyclables near the bins. A resident at another center was injured when he slipped on a cardboard box, and there have been injuries to operators as well.

When the NRCs were first opened, many Tucson homes did not have recycling pick up. The city was looking for way to make it convenient for residents to recycle.

Even though we’ve cut back to recycling pick-ups to every two weeks, collection still happens with every homeowner. Unfortunately, some apartments don’t offer recycling.

We kept the recycling centers open to serve folks who either don’t have home collection or who have a week or two out of the year when they can’t wait for a pick-up.

All I’ve got is anecdotal evidence from my staff and from ES employees, but it doesn’t seem like those folks are the population primarily served by the centers. We have county residents using the facility, for example. I don’t mind having them recycle, but the county should be providing that service, especially when it seems to result in our bins getting too full for other users. We also have commercial users who dump at the NRC rather than either shredding documents or paying a tipping fee at Los Reales.

I’ve heard from my office’s neighbors, both at the fire department and Samprese Estates, about issues at the NRC. A big part of me has wanted to get rid of it, but I thought it was a valuable service.

That value seems to be gone.

We will be closing the Ward 2 recycling center over the next two months. The others around town may be closing as well.

Glass collection is a separate program from the NRCs and there hasn’t been nearly the amount of trouble with those sites. Those sites will remain.

We will continue to try to encourage recycling, even with the difficulties with the world market and local collection.

Paul Cunningham represents Ward 2 on the Tucson City Council.

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