Environmental Stewards

Tubac residents gather for the third meeting of the Santa Cruz Environmental Stewards with the county’s waste manager, John Hays, at far right, who gave an update on recycling.

Gathering for their third informal meeting this week, a newly formed Tubac group brainstormed ways in which local residents could start taking small, collective steps toward addressing climate change.

Just under 20 people joined the Santa Cruz Environmental Stewards on Tuesday evening, accompanied by Santa Cruz County’s solid waste manager, John Hays, who gave them the bad news about the current status of the county’s recycling program.

“The unfortunate truth right now is that, for the last few months, most of the materials are being landfilled because we do not have any place that we can send that material to actually get recycled,” Hays said, adding that the only materials being separated and processed are tin and aluminum cans.

Officials are currently holding meetings with parties that could potentially take in the county’s recyclables for processing, he said, but no decision is expected to be made until mid to late November.

He added that the county is seeking companies to recycle the kinds of material that aren’t being processed at the moment, including mixed paper, glass, mixed plastics and cardboard.

But aside from finding a third-party company to handle recyclable material, Hays said, the second-biggest problem in tackling the issue lies with Santa Cruz County’s residents.

“The biggest problem that we’re facing right now, besides finding someone to give it to is the problem of people putting the wrong things in the recycle (bin). It’s contamination that’s a big issue,” he said.

Hays explained that while many people make an attempt to separate materials properly, some are still sorted incorrectly and others are too contaminated with food remains, making it difficult for companies to recycle it.

Keith Laverty, a Tubac landscape contractor who has taken part in implementing recycling programs in town before, shared the same frustration over people’s recycling habits.

“I work in an environment where I see people that I’m friends with do things that are wrong everyday, and a lot of it is based on being lazy,” Laverty said.

Like others at the meeting, Laverty noted a growing concern for environmental issues among youth, which could be helpful in moving toward a solution.

Julie Arma, another Tubac resident, suggested reaching out to schools around the county to implement an educational program on recycling, in hopes of creating a chain reaction as the youth pass the knowledge on to their parents and other family members.

She reminded the others of the importance of reducing and reusing, as well as her own new touch – refusing to buy products that will generate more trash.

“First, we need to get the (companies) to recycle it,” Arma said about the county’s efforts in finding a place to send the recyclables. “But I think the education part is going to be a lot simpler if we all get our minds together and help out.”

James Derickson, founder of the Santa Cruz Environmental Stewards, said the group’s members are ready to help the county in its future eco-friendly efforts, though he added that the group is also there to hold the local government accountable.

“We want you to know there are people that really support these ideas and we’re very interested,” Derickson said. “And we want to be critical. We want to keep the pressure on those that are in positions to do something and put ourselves in positions of doing something.”

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