So long, recycling; we hardly knew ye.

When curbside recycling was introduced in Safford in 2015, it was met with some resistance. More than a few residents were upset that their twice-a-week trash pickup was being reduced to just once per week.

That contention was actually wrong. Residents’ refuse was still being picked up twice each week — recyclable refuse one day and nonrecyclable refuse the other. However, logic never mollifies the outraged, so the complaints continued.

The city calls the elimination of curbside recycling a “modification” because residents can still have curbside recycling pickup for an additional fee, plus what can be recycled has been significantly reduced. But we call it an elimination of the program because we believe few will pay the extra fee for so few items.

In announcing the change, the city cited the increase in costs to recycle materials — basically, the city was losing money on the program — and that the current level of recycling by residents was having virtually no impact on extending the life of the landfill.

That’s the primary reason to recycle — to keep trash out of landfills. Safford’s Mayor Jason Kouts made the comment that too many people were placing their trash in the wrong bins, which bolsters the city’s position that recycling wasn’t helping to increase the life of the landfill.

It should be noted that not everything in government can or should turn a profit.

The direct return on investment for the installation of streetlights is zero; however, streetlights help reduce crime. Public parks do not generate revenue on a daily basis; however, parks (especially neighborhood parks) greatly increase a community’s quality of life and serve as an asset when it comes to economic development.

Recycling may have been a money loser. If the budget is too tight, we understand why programs operating in the red have to be curtailed or eliminated. However, curbside recycling, even if losing money, is another program that improves quality of life, and cost to retire a landfill is exorbitant. If residents had really embraced the concept of recycling, perhaps that cost could have been pushed off a few years into the future.

Following Safford’s announcement, Thatcher also announced, as of May 6 (the same day Safford will be collecting the blue recycling bins), it was suspending its recycling program.

While, from a cost standpoint, we understand why the communities are taking this action, we remain disappointed to see the recycling program go and hope it will be brought back in the not-too-distant future.


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