March 4, 2022

Recycling on Tucson's curbs and beyond

This week, The Buzz revisits the city's decision to end curbside glass recycling.

recycling trash bins The city is reducing curbside recycling pickup in an effort to save money and adapt to global shifts in the industry.
Sasha Hartzell/AZPM

A year ago, the City of Tucson announced that glass would no longer be accepted in residents’ curbside recycling bins.

Instead, residents are supposed to take their glass to drop-off points throughout the city.

Did it work or did residents stop recycling glass?

“In the year prior, we had about 5,300 tons that had gone to the recycling facility,” said Cristina Polsgrove, spokesperson for Tucson Environmental and General Services. “But in the last year what we collected at drop-off was 1,763 tons. But there were still people putting glass in their blue barrels so we still want to count that. That was 2,493 tons. So, a total of 4,256.”

This week, The Buzz focuses on recycling at the curb and beyond.

Polsgrove said the decision to end curbside glass recycling was based strictly on cost.

And she said more Tucsonans are participating more in glass drop-off recycling than she expected.

“I really kind of thought people would not want to do it but people have really participated well. The glass we get is very clean,” she said.

Still, she added that the city’s recycling system faces challenges.

“A third of everything that goes into the blue bins that gets picked up every other week is trash. It’s trash and then it’s things that are not recyclable, like plastic bags,” she said.

Part of reducing waste is reusing the materials we already have — a goal of the zero-waste Tucson store Cero.

“I had been dreaming since the end of my high school days, ‘what would it look like to have stores just as we do but without all the trash as a byproduct?’” said Val Timin, a co-founder.

The store specializes in products that are produced with little packaging and that support local as well as regional vendors, further cutting down on waste.

Meanwhile, Michael Morse at Inch by Inch is a vermiculture business that grows worms used by gardeners and composters.

“A lot of people buy worms because they just don’t like throwing out food. They may not have a compost pile and they may live in an apartment,” he said. “They are soil engineers and they leave the soil a letter better than they found it. Commercial fertilizers don’t do that.”

The Buzz
The Buzz airs Fridays at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. on NPR 89.1. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and NPR One. See more from The Buzz.
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