After 18 months of research into options for reinstituting a regular recycling program and having sponsored monthly recycling events since last December, the Patagonia Recycling Task Force now reports that many residents of Eastern Santa Cruz County may soon be able to subscribe to a curbside recycling service. 

With Patagonia Town Manager Ron Robinson’s participation, the task force has considered a variety of ways in which recycling could be brought back in the communities of Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin. The group has identified a provider of curbside recycling services, Recyclops, that members believe would work well for people who are willing to pay for that service. 

Discussions with Recyclops have progressed to the point that the company will initiate its curbside service when 100 households have subscribed in this area, possibly as soon as this fall. The company’s CEO, Ryan Smith, said he is also in discussion with a group in Sierra Vista and is likely to institute the service there. 

Recyclops uses a unique curbside service model. For about $12/month, Recyclops will pick up household recyclables except for glass at the curb every other week. Glass recycling is available as an extra cost option. Rather than using large trucks with robot arms that pick up plastic toters, the company provides reusable plastic bags to its customers and contracts with independent drivers to collect the bags and deliver the recyclables to a central collection site from which the company transports the materials to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting, processing and selling the materials to end users. 

The Recyclops system has significant advantages over the curbside services offered by most recycling companies. It greatly reduces the environmental impact of operating heavy trucks, while providing income to local residents who do the pickup. Most importantly, it substantially lowers the level of contamination in the recyclable stream, the very problem that plagued the Patagonia recycling operation before the county shut it down. 

While the curbside service would be a major step forward, most households will not participate, for financial or other reasons, and therefore a drop off center will be needed for all households to have local access to recycling. Smith has expressed interest in working with the task force to determine whether his company could benefit from a drop off center and therefore help underwrite the expense of operating such a facility. The task force hopes to develop a detailed plan that will be used to apply for grants and to solicit donations for establishing and operating a drop off center. 

While neither the town nor the task force has had any recent word from Santa Cruz County about restarting countywide recycling, the group hopes that the county will in some way support the implementation of recycling in eastern Santa Cruz County. 

The task force has documented strong support for recycling throughout the region. Task Force member, and PRT Board President, Jac Heiss expressed optimism for recycling in the PRT readership area. “It’s encouraging to see the progress we have made and with the continued support of the community we’ll have a recycling program that actually works.”