In a June 5, 2012 letter to Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) recommended the language for the Solid Waste Collection Ordinance be updated from “The City does not provide” to “The City may provide” waste and recycling services to commercial, industrial and multifamily customers.
“We believe updating this ordinance is congruent with achieving the Environmental Quality Commission’s goal to help city leaders identify environmental issues and advise the City Council on opportunities to protect Phoenix’s natural and urban environment.” ~ Kate Gallego (Chair) and Jessica Catlin (Member)
The most common complaint the EQC hears from Phoenix residents is that they have insufficient access to recycling services. The letter to Mayor Stanton goes on to say:
“Phoenix should have the flexibility to study whether the Public Works Department can meet these customers’ needs by expanding its popular recycling program.”
The EQC letter include goes on to suggest that:
- Allowing Phoenix to explore service options that might result in innovative partnerships with the private sector. This might help expand service and lower rates for solid waste and recycling services.
- An expanded recycling program may help the city simultaneously create a new revenue stream and achieve its diversion goals.
- Removing the barrier to explore this service provision is one significant but simple step Phoenix can take in its efforts to become a more sustainable city.
Why hasn’t Phoenix had a recycle presence in these areas?
In my quest to answer that question, I found out that obstacles to having recycling bins at multi-family housing units is not the same as reasons some people cite for why it won’t work.
For example, in 2006, The Arizona Republic reported, “Valley cities say they don’t offer recycling to apartments and condos because those residents won’t take advantage of the service. They also fear that contamination (regular garbage mixed with recyclables) would be too high because of the anonymity that shared trash bins offer. They also say there is simply no demand.”
Another interesting tidbit from the article:
Terry Feinberg, president of the Arizona Multihousing Association, said recycling won’t work at apartment complexes because scavengers would rummage through containers. He also said existing dumpster corrals are difficult to enlarge to make room for separate recycling bins.
“Even on new construction, the extra space required can lead to elimination of parking spaces, which can put the property out of zoning compliance,” Feinberg said.
If the state was serious about requiring multihousing to recycle, Feinberg said, officials would offer financial incentives to the industry or allow complexes to retrofit and waive code penalties.
That was in 2006. Where are we now in handling these situations?
“I can’t speak to why Phoenix has not been in the business of recycling in the past, but here is what i do know. Residents and businesses want better service, and other cities across the country have much more robust programs, so there must be a way to meet this need. Changing the language allows our city to explore those possibilities.”
~ Jessica Catlin, Phoenix Environmental Quality Commision
Now that’s what I’m talking about: Proactive, forward-leaning momentum. Enough talk about change. Be the change.
—The EQC plays a leadership role on a number of environmental topics, including greener neighborhoods, renewable and solar energy projects, land use policies, air and water quality, sustainable building codes, urban heat island, recycling initiatives, climate action plan goals, the Phoenix General Plan, and other key city efforts.—