After nearly four years of working with my colleagues on the Patagonia Recycling Task Force, it is with considerable disappointment that lately I see little evidence of recycling activity in and around Patagonia.

Created in early 2020 primarily to address the contamination that plagued the town’s drop off facility and just before Santa Cruz County removed the containers, the task force initially sponsored monthly drop off events in Patagonia but suspended them out of concern that the drop off events were competing with Recyclops’ efforts to establish a viable base of customers for its curbside pick-up program. That objective has not been achieved and, in fact, the company has lost most of the nearly 100 subscribers it had signed up in the early days of its rollout. Since the task force was responsible for recruiting Recyclops, I feel particularly sad that it didn’t work out, both for the company and the community.

The possible reasons for Recyclops’ failure to thrive in this market are not hard to understand: the company raised its fees shortly after launching its service here; drivers were at times unavailable to pick up; and customer service fell short of expectations. The final blow for many customers (our household still subscribes) came when the company tacked on a $12 per month surcharge early this year, the explanation for which was that costs had risen and the bump up was necessary for the company to survive.

As bleak as the recycling picture looks now, I am optimistic that things will improve in the near future. Although the task force has not met formally for several months, I have been in touch with the members informally and I have had recent discussions with Patagonia Mayor Andrea Wood and Manager Ron Robinson, both of whom would like to see a town-wide recycling program in operation. To their credit, they both had set aside time in their busy schedules to go with task force members to tour the Republic Services recycling center in Tucson. Unfortunately, the tour twice had to be cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled, but it’s an important step in understanding what really happens to recyclables once they are picked up at the curb.

In my view, there are several factors that favor the eventual implementation of a curbside recycling program for Patagonia. Not only does Mayor Wood believe it’s the town’s responsibility to provide the opportunity for its residents to recycle, but the town would save a lot on tipping fees at the landfill if it could divert the recyclables from the waste stream. The town also devotes considerable labor and equipment to garbage collection twice a week, double the service received by residents in most municipalities. If some of those resources could be devoted to curbside recycling, it could be a win-win for the residents, the town and the environment. The challenge, I believe, is finding the start-up funds to be able to shift some of those resources from collecting and burying garbage to collecting recyclables.

Over the years, we have seen described in the pages of this newspaper, the power of the generosity and ingenuity of Patagonians in response to many community needs. I am convinced that those traits, properly shepherded, will produce results in this instance as well, and I invite PRT readers to engage with me, the task force and others in the community who believe that, Greenpeace’s recent statement notwithstanding, burying so much of what we acquire but don’t consume is unsustainable, unwise and unnecessary. Until zero waste is in our grasp, our mantra must be reduce, reuse, recycle.

Bob Brandt can be contacted at