Paul's Note - April 9, 2021

Some concerns about the recycling monitoring project have come back to my office. I wanted to talk a little bit about it. 

Since the city has had curbside recycling, Environmental Services has had a number of educational campaigns about what should be recycled and what shouldn’t. This has included public information campaigns in local media and inserts in water bills to remind people. Unfortunately, this has not been working. 

The market for recyclables has changed considerably over the last decade or so. At one time, it was about volume. Customers didn’t pay as much attention to the quality of what we were shipping to them. Now, our customers are looking for quality. They want a low contamination rate, which is the percent of a shipment of recyclables that isn’t usable. China, our largest market in the past, is not taking our recyclables at all anymore. We’ve been forced to be more careful about what we are collecting. 

The facility that sorts and processes our recyclables is known as the Materials Recovery Facility or MRF. Republic Services, the company the city contracts with to run the MRF, does regular audits of what comes into the facility and has found a contamination rate of 30%. This is costing the city $30,000 a month in excess residue fees. If we can reduce that contamination rate by 50%, that fee goes away. 

To that end, we started doing inspections on our curb side recycling. This became possible through a grant of $150,000 from a group called The Recycling Partnership, a grant that has been extended from that initial amount. That funds ten inspectors who can inspect up to 2100 bins a day. The grant will run through June. Hopefully, that work will help us end that $30,000 a month we are being charged. 

There are some other interesting things going on with Environmental Services. As many of you know, we no longer do curbside collection of glass, instead we are collecting glass at various locations around town (including a collection center at our office. The complete list is here.). 

This glass will be crushed and used for various things like fill for Tucson Water line projects and used in asphalt. The word we are using is “reuse” rather than “recycled” because we are not reprocessing the material to make, say, new bottles. Since the program started in February, we have collected 150 tons of glass. 

Members of the Environmental Services Advisory Committee, the citizens group that advises the Environmental and General Services Department, were given a tour of the city’s new composting facility. The city has an agreement with several grocery stores and restaurants to collect food waste and compost it. The city is working on being able to use animal waste from the zoo (they are calling it “zoo doo”) in the composting process. Nitrogen from “zoo doo” will make the process more efficient. Once the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality approves this, we will start doo-ing that. 

The compost will mostly be used on parks and other green spaces in the city. 

A little trash talk is always good on a Friday afternoon, isn’t it? 

Tucson Parks and Recreation will open three extended-season pools and splash pads beginning Monday, April 19, in addition to four pools already open. Pools will continue to be limited capacity for adult lap swimming only, with one lap swimmer per lane. Masks are required at the facility when not in the water. The pool at Morris K. Udall Park (7200 E Tanque Verde) will be open Monday through Friday, 10 am – 7 pm and weekends from noon until 4 pm. Fort Lowell Pool will also open once the parking lot paving is complete in early May. In addition, City of Tucson splash pads will also open on Monday, April 19. They will be open daily from 8 a.m.-sunset. 

Mayor Regina Romero and I invite you to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s 2021 National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. It takes less than a minute to go to to complete a short survey to commit to saving water and other natural resources. Take the online pledge and be entered to win hundreds of eco-friendly prizes. Pledge online by April 30. We have always done well in this competition, so let’s make Tucson a winner AGAIN in 2021!