As scheduled, Tucson residents can put a new array of plastics into their blue recycling barrels starting Monday: yogurt and butter tubs, squeezable lotion bottles, clear berry containers and clamshell containers that held desserts.
But there won't be a Tucson recycling center for them to go to for processing starting Monday, as had been scheduled under a contract the city has with a private company. The new center won't be ready to open for at least a few weeks more, city officials now say.
Construction of the new 57,000-square-foot recycling center at East Ajo Way and South Alvernon Way is finished. But the final touches need a few weeks, said Fran LaSala, a manager in the city's Environmental Services Department.
The city's contract with the facility operator, Re Community, calls for that company to take all city recyclables starting July 1, although it doesn't require the center to be open by then.
So for the next few weeks, all recyclables will be sorted, baled and prepared for shipment at a Phoenix processing center run by Re Community. Under Tucson's contract, the company is responsible for the costs of shipping the materials there, LaSala said.
The new center will replace one run by the city's current recycling contractor, Recycle America, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. Its contract with the city to process recyclables ends today.
The extra gasoline needed to ship recyclables to Phoenix is an environmental concern, LaSala said, but the city doesn't have room to store the recyclables in Tucson while waiting for the new center to open.
He added, "We are not going to landfill them." Putting the recyclables in a landfill would, like using gasoline, also cause a carbon footprint, he said, since landfills produce methane gas. The city's contract with Re Community doesn't allow the materials to be landfilled, he added.
In any case, after the new recycling center is running, Re Community - after sorting and baling - will still be shipping Tucson's recyclables to Phoenix for shipment around the world to be recycled into new products, La Sala said.
Unlike Tucson, Phoenix is the most direct way to get recyclables to destinations such as Los Angeles and the upper Midwest, said Will Herzog, vice president for the Western region of Re Community.
Until now, Tucson's recyclables have been shipped directly from the Old Pueblo to global recycling markets, said Austin Ellis, Recycle America center's site manager.
LaSala said he has no doubt the new center will be ready in late July. It will be "state of the art," with all materials sorted and processed indoors, to prevent blowing debris, and with less chance of fire because of an inside sprinkler system, he said.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at email@example.com or 806-7746.