Summer is vacation time

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Summer is vacation time. People travelling to new places, seeing the sites enjoying what other towns and cities have to offer. When I take my summer vacation one thing I always do is see how the place I am visiting handles its recycling. This gives me a chance to compare what we do here in Sedona and allows for inspiration and new ideas. Every city, town and state has different policies and the range of recycling services varies greatly from place to place. On my two most recent trips I saw some great programs that I would like to share with you. The first trip was to Napa, California. Now of course California is at the forefront of recycling with a bottle bill in place and cutting edge waste reduction programs so their recycling efforts are exemplary. The Napa Valley has a population of about 78,000 and like Sedona it is a tourist destination with beautiful scenery and great weather. I generally look at the local phone book to determine where and how an area recycles. I discovered something very interesting when doing this in Napa. Their local phone book has this on the cover, it says “Look inside and use the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide for Napa County” it continued with “Recycling saves resources, energy, jobs and money, recycling saves for the future”. Inside the phone book there were 30 pages of information about recycling, household hazardous waste disposal, composting, construction and demolition recycling virtually anything and everything was covered in regard to proper disposal and all the resources necessary to be able to do it right. The green pages of this phone book had great graphics and really showed people the how and why of recycling. These vacation discoveries on how others do it are both inspirational and disheartening because we in rural Arizona lack the infrastructure and state support to duplicate these outstanding programs.  My latest trip was to Vail Colorado another tourist driven area that is also very beautiful. Recycling was evident everywhere and I soon found out why. The Vail city council in July passed a recycling ordinance that requires that all businesses, lodging, retail stores and homeowners recycle. It just went into effect with a 6 month transition period for adoption of the ordinance requirements by residents and businesses. Compliance will be required by January 1, 2015. All businesses will need to recycle adding containers for recycling wherever they have trash including their dumpster area. Recycling containers will have to be added in front of their businesses if trash containers are available for their customers. The lodging industry needs to offer recycling in the rooms and every common area that offers trash collection. Recycling containers need to be located as conveniently as trash containers. In retail stores they must also have recycling available wherever there is a trash container All homeowners need to sign up for curbside recycling through their hauler and there are also numerous drop off recycling locations. Recycling will be picked up as often as trash with a pay as you throw trash system so the customer can determine what size container they need for trash. At this point I let out a deep sigh because this is what I want to see in Sedona. It has been talked about, it has been researched it has been studied and then put away without any action. Vail took a bold step. People don’t like to be told what to do. They don’t like ordinances but sometimes we have to do what we might not want to do because the alternative is not sustainable. Many people have likened Arizona’s approach to recycling as a Wild West method with an every person for themselves mentality. This method creates unsubstantiated recycling data, littering, landfills that have a shortened lifespan and the associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It takes education out of the equation which is critical to a successful recycling program. We are better than that and we have the examples out there of forward thinking communities that engage their residents, visitors and businesses in solving the problem of waste. Recycling is good for everyone and we have the way right in our community to do extraordinary things if we all work together. We want to be that place that when someone vacations here they go home and say “You can’t believe what they are doing in Sedona they are providing the very best recycling choices imaginable. They are doing so much more than we are doing in our community we need to follow their lead.”  We spend a lot of time and money bringing people to Sedona to vacation and we must remember that we have more than just the beautiful scenery to offer. We should serve as a model of sustainability because that is really the way of the future and we don’t want to be left behind. It is time to get on the bandwagon and make it happen. At Sedona Recycles we are giving it our best effort but it will take us all to make it a reality.