Garbage is a given, recycling is an afterthought

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Everyone has garbage, but how it is perceived is another matter altogether. Some people see everything they get rid of as garbage. It could be clothes, light bulbs, batteries, food, and so on. There is no distinction; it is all trash and needs to be disposed of. Into the can it goes, out of your life forever, no fuss no muss.


There are others that see distinctions in what is considered garbage and what can be recovered for a higher purpose. Those people are called recyclers and we hope you all fall into the second category.


It has been widely touted that people living in Sedona are big recyclers. This all depends, of course, on your definition of recycling. Those who put all their trash and recycling into one bin are not recyclers. Recycling is a verb and it denotes action. The action required is to look at what you have and separate out what can and will be recycled and decide what really is garbage.


Sedona Recycles has a great community of die-hard recyclers. They go the extra mile to recycle and reuse everything that they can. They bring in their Styrofoam, batteries, corks, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts, along with the usual recyclable items. They ask questions and make sure they are doing the right thing and putting materials in the right place. We see many of the same faces at the facility on a weekly basis because recycling has become part of their lives.


We also have drop-off sites throughout the community, which – based on the volumes collected – are being well used by many residents and businesses. But, according to our calculations using trash and recycling volumes from local haulers, Gray Wolf landfill, and the Environmental Protection Agency, we have always found that only a small fraction – approximately 20% in recent years – of our community recycles.


What is the best way to increase this number? To participate in recycling programs that are committed to accurately sorting and recycling the materials for remanufacturing, preferably within the U.S. If you are not participating in some part of the sorting process then there is no guarantee of the outcome. If you don’t do your homework and make sure that the facility or hauler you are dealing with is recovering everything you put in the bin, you really cannot be sure if those materials will ever be recycled.


Our guess is that most everyone in Sedona has trash collection. Most people would never consider doing without a trash bin, but how many people would participate in recycling if it were widely available at the curb? The criticism we most often hear about the City’s proposed curbside recycling program is that it will cost more. This doesn’t seem to be an issue when it comes to trash. People willingly pay for the disposal of what is deemed garbage, but when it comes to recycling things get more complicated.


It has been said that recycling has to be easy for the customer. This is a nice sentiment, but the reality is that someone is going to have to do the real work of pulling out and sorting the recycling. The more that is done on the front end by the customer, the higher the probability that the materials will be recycled. The less that is done by the customer, the more contaminated and degraded the materials become and the harder it is to get them sorted out.


Think of it this way: once a cake is baked it would be impossible to pull out the eggs, flour, milk, or any of the individual ingredients that went into the process. Commingled recyclables, especially those mixed with garbage, are like that as well. Once mixed and compacted in the truck, the broken glass cannot be removed from the cardboard and the plastic bottles cannot be untangled from the bent steel cans.


In the end we must all work together and do our part to be real recyclers, not just unwitting participants. It can be done without that much extra effort. You just need to understand the process and your part in it. Let’s make recycling the given and garbage the afterthought.


To learn more about recycling and how to responsibly reduce and recycle your waste, visit or contact us at (928) 204-1185.


by Jill McCutcheon, Sedona Recycles

Sedona Red Rock News

August 17, 2016