There’s no curbside recycling for the twelve villages that make up the Hopi reservation. That’s mainly because of remoteness and sheer distance from potential buyers of recyclable materials. But, a brother and sister team are trying to change that.
Jack and Georgie Pongyesva are the founders of the nonprofit organization, RezCycling. It’s a grassroots push for tribal members and businesses to collect recyclable materials and put them aside for pick up by the siblings themselves.
Jack and Georgie store cardboard, paper, plastic and metal on their father’s land until they meet the 21 ton minimum required to sell it at market price. The business depends as much on proximity to material markets as it does to amounts of discarded recyclables.
Their vision ties recycling into their traditional Hopi beliefs. Georgie often starts a presentation on RezCycling by telling the story of the Caretaker Deity, who made an agreement with the first Hopi people to be stewards of the earth, its plants, animals and ecosystems. The siblings hope to integrate a new tradition of environmental stewardship into their already rich cultural heritage.
Jack is active in the Arizona Recycling Coalition, finding inspiration from other small-town recycling leaders who face similar issues. And, RezCycling is now part of the Native American Business Incubator Network sponsored by the Grand Canyon Trust. In 2018, Jack Pongyesva was awarded the Trust’s Grand Canyon Award for his passion and dedication to environmental justice.
So far, RezCycling has been well-received on Hopi as many residents want to recycle more consistently and conveniently. Jack and Georgie hope to eventually create multiple drop-off locations across the reservation.