GRAHAM COUNTY — With current trash dumping rates putting a strain on the Safford-Graham County landfill, increased recycling could soon become important as an alternative.
A few places presently provide recycling; much of it is done by the Graham County Rehabilitation Center and Vista Recycling. However, Gila Valley cities and towns have yet to offer any formal services.
The chief reasons for this, according to Thatcher Town Engineer Heath Brown and Safford City Manager Horatio Skeete, are the price of instituting a recycling program and the difficulty of finding someone to take recyclables.
“First, when we have investigated the idea in the past, with all that is required, it has been cost prohibitive. Secondly, the town has not had any success finding an entity (that) will take possession of the recycled material. To our knowledge, there is no one in our area . . . we would need to ship the material out of town,” Brown said.
Though Thatcher has no recycling program, Brown said, it does offer residents a program where they can bring legally burnable materials to a town-operated burn pit at no charge, thereby keeping such materials from the landfill.
In Safford, Skeete said that previous efforts also suggested recycling was too expensive, that transportation costs far exceeded the market price for recyclables. At best, a recycling program would be cost-neutral “and therefore we didn’t pursue it. That’s what I’ve heard as I started the conversation.” Part of such a program’s cost would be acquiring new, differently colored, containers to hold recyclables. But Skeete has not given up on the idea; he is “working aggressively” to make it happen.
“We’re exploring the cost of curbside recycling and intend to bring it forward for consideration for next year’s budget,” Skeete said.
He estimated that the city can divert about 20 percent of trash from the landfill through recycling, with a long-term goal of reducing dumping by 40 to 50 percent.
“My hope is that it would not cost residents any more than they are now paying for trash pickup. We’re currently exploring the cost to make that happen. We think we have enough vehicles to do it,” Skeete said.
He envisioned pickups two days a week, one day for trash and another for recyclables. The process would also include an “intense public relations awareness campaign.”
“We would probably have a limited scope in terms of the materials that we would collect as recyclables,” Skeete said. Those materials include paper, plastic containers, cardboard and aluminum cans. “I hope to be able to partner with the current group (Graham County Rehabilitation Center) that is doing recycling.
“This time, I’m hoping we’ll be able to do it,” he added. “I hope by us doing it in the City of Safford, we would encourage other communities to try it.”
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