by Jeff Hargis, Trees, Water & People Board Member
A road trip to Phoenix to pick up my son provided a great opportunity for me to stop in Tuba City, AZ and visit Tyler Tawahongva, a Hopi member of the Coyote Clan, and the winner of Trees, Water & People’s 2014 Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.
It was a bright and mild December day on the Navajo Reservation, and I was fortunate to catch Tyler on a day when he was loading a rental truck with tons (literally!) of recyclable materials for his regular trip to buyers in Phoenix. So I was able to get a close-up look at his Cloud Nine recycling operation.
The operation requires a lot of work: card board to bundle, aluminum cans and plastic bottles to sort and bag, and all kinds of electronics and appliances to be mined for steel, aluminum, and especially copper wire, which can fetch over two dollars per pound. Tyler is looking to hire additional help which would allow him to process more material.
There are also many variables that can influence the profitability of the recycling business. As Tyler showed me around, he was continuously bringing up ideas and asking questions regarding improvements to his operation. Purchasing a baler would allow Tyler to process more cardboard and transport more per load to Phoenix. The purchase of a utility trailer would eliminate the cost of renting a truck for transporting the material, not to mention the 150 mile round trip from Tuba City to the truck rental operation in Flagstaff. All of these ideas provide opportunity for a little more profit for Cloud Nine, and a lot less waste going to the local landfill.
Tyler was able to finish loading the 16’ yellow rental truck ahead of sunset for the trip to Phoenix the following morning. I lent a hand with the loading as we talked about Cloud Nine Recycling. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the business. I was impressed by the energy Tyler puts into the effort, and the ideas he has for the future. With the TWP Green Business Start-up Award, these dreams for improving and growing the business have become real possibilities for Tyler.
I encourage you to support Tyler through his GoFundMe campaign so he can continue the great work he is doing within his community!