Santa Cruz County’s suspension of its recycling program due to the Covid-19 Pandemic may be saving the county money but it has been costly to the Town of Patagonia in terms of dollars spent on increased tipping fees. 

According to Town Manager Ron Robinson, before the blue bin was shut down and removed, the town was spending $1200 per month on tipping fees, the fees the county charges for disposing of garbage in its landfills. Now, with all the town’s recyclables going into either the Rio Rico or Sonoita landfills, the town is paying $1,800 per month, the equivalent of $7,200 extra for the year if some change isn’t implemented. 

The tipping fees are normally covered by the monthly fee paid by town residents for the town’s twice weekly curbside trash collection. The increased tipping fees mean less money available to cover the normal costs of maintaining the present trash collection service. Facing this increase in costs, the town may have to reduce service or raise fees, neither choice being one consumers will enthusiastically embrace. 

Plans to restart recycling in Patagonia have been discussed by the town, the county and the PRT-initiated Recycling Task Force, but due to Covid-19 restrictions and logistical considerations, the start date and the exact nature of the program have yet to be determined. In the meantime, the task force is encouraging local residents to take advantage of recycling facilities in Tucson and Nogales. 

Those who don’t want their recyclable items to end up in the landfill (the task force hopes that’s everyone) are encouraged to team up with friends and neighbors to take their recyclables to one of seven Neighborhood Recycling Centers in Tucson (see for locations), or Nogales Recycling & Waste Services, 1450 N. Hohokam Drive. In both cases, paper, cardboard, plastic, metal food cans and glass are accepted, as long as they are empty, clean, dry, and boxes flattened. 

By coordinating with friends and neighbors, local residents can take advantage of already scheduled trips to one of these municipalities, minimizing transportation costs and maximizing the volume of materials that actually get recycled. It’s a win-win arrangement. The task force members who have taken advantage of these facilities report that the single-stream system is very user friendly since there is no need to sort the items into separate receptacles and, especially important during the pandemic, there is little to no interaction required with other people. The receptacles are well-spaced and there are generally no attendants on hand, making it relatively safe.

By taking recyclables where they can actually be recycled, we save money and landfill space and reduce the amount of precious virgin resources.

Reduce, reuse, recycle!