In 1992 Don Gibson moved to Tucson to become the recycling coordinator for the city of Tucson.
The previous coordinator moved to Colorado, and Gibson, who was working for the city of Chandler at the time, also needed a change of scene.
Blue Barrel Program
During his time as coordinator Gibson has implemented programs that have been extremely beneficial to Tucson.
He began the green bin program, which later became the blue barrel program in 2002.
When he began the program it needed $5 million for the blue barrels, but they did not have the funds for it. However the solid waste department had excess funds which were then used to fund the blue barrel program.
Gibson said his biggest issue is when people recycle incorrectly.
Contrary to what the public might think, in recent years trash in recycling bins has actually increased.
“It is an ongoing frustration with education efforts and the community,” Gibson said. People get the idea to recycle and they start to recycle anything plastic: plastic fill, plastic bags, toys and plastic utensils.
The only plastics recyclable at the Tucson recycling plant are plastics with a 1 or 2 stamped on the bottom, which include bottles with necks and screw tops. All other plastics cannot be recycled and find their way to the trash bin.
List of items that can be recycled
Every tour Gibson gives of the recycling facility he makes sure to mention the press release from the EPA from November 2008.
According to the EPA’s 2007 Municipal Solid Waste Characterization report, “Americans save energy, conserve natural resources, and help reduce climate change every time they reduce, reuse, or recycle.”
The report stated that “recycling 85 billion tons of municipal solid waste in 2007 saved the energy equivalent of more than 10.7 billion gallons of gasoline and prevented the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 35 million passenger vehicles.”
The recycling and reuse industry also creates jobs and provides economic benefits.
“The American recycling and reuse industry is a $200 billion dollar enterprise involving more than 50,000 recycling and reuse establishments, employing more than 1 million people, and generating an annual payroll of approximately $37 billion,” stated the EPA press release.
Future of the Industry
The industry is changing. The recycling of newspapers has gone down and plastics have gone up, Gibson said.
“Change is a good thing. We will maintain a course and will continue adjusting to the changing times,” he said.
The neighborhood recycling centers, 14 drop-off sites around Tucson are closing in order to save money.
Article on the neighborhood recycling center closures
When the recycling centers around town are gone the recycling will drop considerably, Gibson said. But he is still hopeful.
“It is a rewarding job. I enjoy going to work everyday, and though I enjoy going home at night, I don’t regret going to work the next morning,” Gibson said.
“I like it better than working in landfills and dealing with garbage,” he said. “It is a better environment to be in.”