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Tucson sees improvement in residential recycling through new program

Tucson Feet on the Street Program
Posted at 7:01 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 10:01:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Over the past month, the City of Tucson Environmental and General Services Department has inspected 45,000 residential recycle bins. Inspectors place tags on the bins if they see items inside that can't be recycled.

"It's definitely more work. Some people, like my husband, say 'Forget it. I'm not going to do it,'" said Tucson resident, Ruth Caplain.

Putting the wrong items in your recycle bin could earn you a fine or the removal of your recycling service entirely.

"We're paying roughly, $30,000, a month on contamination. If we can get that contamination out, that goes away, and we can spend that money on other things," said Kendra Santucci with the City of Tucson Environmental and General Services Department.

Trash-loaded recycle bins are exactly what the city is trying to avoid. Food, liquid, cords, wires and plastic bags are commonly misplaced in recycle bins. Santucci said these items mess with the recycling process.

"It gets tangled up in the equipment at the processing facility. It can actually ruin the machinery there," said Santucci.

Santucci said the city's efforts to educate residents about recycling are working. Since starting their "Feet on the Street" program four weeks ago, the city reports inspectors are issuing 39% less warnings to residents for improper recycling.

"A lot of them are cleaning up. We're seeing, if they previously had a warning or rejection, they're getting better the second time," said Santucci.

Some neighbors appreciate the city's drive to "go green."

"We value being responsible with our trash and finding ways to make sure that the things we dispose of can be put to good use, instead of ending up in the landfill," said Tucson resident, Paula Hyatt.

The city has yet to issue any fines through their "Feet on the Street" program.