Ed Zuercher

Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher.

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio says Phoenix taxpayers have underwritten a costly lesson for City Hall on ways to teach residents that recycling is a good thing other than spending millions of dollars on trinkets.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio ripped Phoenix officials Monday after they disclosed they were dropping a contract that already has cost taxpayers $3.3 million to encourage residents to recycle their trash by offering gift cards and discounts on magazine subscriptions.

After published reports Monday that the city was dropping the $10-million, five-year contract after two years because they weren’t getting the results they had hoped for, DiCiccio decried the program.

“$3.3 wasted taxpayers monies is not what I would call a ‘teachable moment,” he wrote City Manager Ed Zuercher in a letter Tuesday.

He posted on Facebook Monday that “inept management & politicians trash your cash” on the education program. The next day, he told Zuercher that he wanted the names “of each person who pushed this program” – terming it “an embarrassment to our city.”

“The public deserves accountability and we also need to know what type of discipline is planned for these individuals,” he told Zuercher. “If you have no intention of doing anything about this, then the public needs to know.”

Some of the program’s supporters are now seeking higher office – including former Mayor Greg Stanton, who’s running for Congress, and former Councilman Daniel Valenzuela and soon-to-be ex-Councilwoman Kate Gallego, who are running for mayor against Ahwatukee businessman Moses Sanchez.

At the meeting where the contract was approved two years ago, DiCiccio warned, “This is why Phoenix doesn’t have any money. You want to educate people, put the money in schools. You’ll get a lot more mileage.”

The city’s contract, with a national company called Recyclebank, was aimed at deflecting into recycling 40 percent of the garbage now tossed into landfills. It currently hovers around 33 percent, according to published reports.

DiCiccio also cited the ineffective program as another example of Zuercher’s job performance, which he has frequently criticized in recent months.

Recycling programs in Phoenix and across the country have taken a major hit in recent months after China decided to no longer accept most recyclables from America, saying they were too polluted by garbage to be re-used.

For many cities, including Phoenix, what was once a profitable revenue stream has now become a costly expense.

Despite years of nationwide efforts to get people to recycle, it is unclear why Phoenix officials felt a special education program was necessary in the first place.

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