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Tempe Recycles More, But Makes Less Green

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Paper recyling bin.

Tempe’s goal is to divert 40 percent of residential waste away from the landfill by 2020. Right now, about 25 percent of Tempe residential waste escapes the dump.

But the financial incentive for the city to recycle isn’t as strong as it used to be.

Tempe and other cities collect recyclables, sort them and sell them by the ton across the country and internationally. In Tempe’s case, it contracts with a private company to do so.

Steven Pietrzykowsky, Tempe’s solid waste services manager, says even though more people recycle, what they pitch in weighs less than it used to.

“Well when you go to the grocery store, all you really need to do is look on the shelves,” Pietrzykowsky said. “You’re seeing a lot of additional flexible packaging, thinner bottles, less glass.”

The oil market also plays a role.

“When the cost of oil is low and it costs less to make new products, it really deteriorates the recyclable market,” Pietrzykowsky said.

Pietrzykowsky says despite the uncertain financial gain, recycling remains a priority.

“Landfill space is finite, that’s Number 1,” Pietrzykowsky said. “We want to stop burying material. We want to be good stewards of the environment.”

The city is also increasing its effort to compost food scraps and vegetation.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.