According to Sedona Recycles Executive Director Jill McCutcheon, while most communities in the Verde Valley allocate funds to pay for recycling services, Cottonwood has been content to let the county subsidize much of its residents’ recycling needs.
In 2015, Sedona Recycles pulled its approximately two dozen bins at five different sites within Cottonwood city limits, ending a decade and a half of service. At that time, Sedona Recycles and the city of Cottonwood had no contractual agreement with one another. McCutcheon said at the time the organization could no longer afford to cover the cost of providing service.
“The biggest challenge to providing service to municipalities is being fairly compensated for service,” McCutcheon said. “Everyone pays for garbage collection without hesitation, but they view recycling differently.”
About 144 of Sedona Recycles’ nine cubic-yard bins remain in Sedona, Camp Verde and Jerome. There, city and town governments pay for service. In the Village of Oak Creek, Cornville, the Rimrock area and the Verde Villages, the county pays for service.
It is in the last location where the issue of Cottonwood resident use comes into play, according to McCutcheon: Once the bins were removed from Cottonwood proper, the majority of recyclable material from Cottonwood moved to the Verde Village bins near Mingus Union High School.
“So, the businesses and residents of Cottonwood still wanted to recycle and they use that site but the county pays for it,” McCutcheon said. “The increase at that one site since the five in Cottonwood closed increased from 28 tons per month to as much as 52 tons per month. We added 10 extra bins to that one site and it is always full to capacity.
“Cottonwood officials in the past have felt that, between the free market and the Cottonwood Transfer Station, recycling in the city is covered. We know by the increased burden at the county site this is not the case. There have been efforts to reinstate service to Cottonwood in discussions with officials but they are satisfied with the current situation.”
McCutcheon added that she does not view Sedona Recycles as competing with garbage collection services such as Patriot Disposal, which is used exclusively in the town of Clarkdale. Patriot offers recycling services in tandem with regular trash collection. According to Patriot, Smart Stream Recycling Technology removes the “maximum amount of recyclables from the waste stream” while allowing customers to simply bag their waste as normal, using one trash bin.
“Smart Stream Technology is a fancy term for hand sorting through garbage to recover recyclables,” McCutcheon said. “We sort the same way, by hand, but the difference is there is no garbage and the only sorting is of plastics and cans on our sorting line. Patriot by their own admission has a recovery rate of below 20 percent [and] we have a 98 percent-plus recovery rate.
“[T]he real problem we face is that people want to believe that someone else will do the work necessary to recycle and they won’t have to. The truth is they can’t. One need only imagine what makes up garbage and then picture someone digging by hand through rotten food, medical waste, dead animals and cat litter to see this is not a good situation.”
Regarding the reestablishment of service in Cottonwood, city of Cottonwood Development Services Manager Morgan Scott said, “We don’t reach out to any company,” but added that the city would once again be seeking bids for recycling services in 2019.
Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin said that the relationship between Camp Verde and Sedona Recycles is strong and bins will remain in town until at least the end of the year. As part of the budget process, however, Martin is obligated to seek bids for recycling services later this year.
“For us, it’s a matter of seeing what we can afford in our budget,” Martin said. “That will all come out in the budget process.”