Last month’s article Solid Waste Recycling on Shaky Ground highlighted the Jan. 18 decision that Taos County could not financially support recycling at this time. Your support for recycling was asked for by letting councilors and commissioners of the town and county know your opinion and knowledge on the importance of recycling. Thank you to those who wrote to our elected representatives!
Personally, I wrote to all the commissioners, the mayor, and a councilman, and I received many positive replies and reassurances that recycling is greatly valued by town and county and that it is a problem that is sincerely being worked on. Not knowing the details of the work being done, the county administrators were contacted and a fuller picture of what must be done to start up recycling emerged.
Some years ago, the county commissioners were so supportive of recycling that they worked with Solid Waste, Lorenzo Gutierrez, and Edward Martinez, to start recycling at the transfer stations. The idea was that if the program could be financially successful as well as operationally successful, it would move forward.
Recycling is a commodity with its ups and downs. For example, a metric ton of cardboard fluctuated roughly between $20 and $210 in the past five years in the U.S. The work it takes to pick it up from the transfer stations, move it to another location once or twice, bundle it with a hand-fed bailer to prepare it for purchase is a money loser at today’s low prices, and it takes personnel that the department hasn’t funded and are not available to do that work. And the public doesn’t always deposit clean cardboard, which makes the bales worth even less (not to mention clean metals or properly separated metals!). And then there was COVID-19 with the resultant economic ups and downs and difficulty in hiring personnel.
The decision was made that to move forward and put the mechanisms in place to get a thriving department, the whole picture needed to be looked at — comparative waste fees, recycling fees, competitive market values, etc. Says Jason Silva, the Deputy County Manager – Operations, “We want to make sure we have a viable program going forward.” To do that, the analysis must be done, town and county have to cover the true costs of all of the waste pickup and recycling, and they hope to broaden the scope of recycling and work with enterprises such as TiLT’s Repurposing Plastic, the Recycle Ranger, and Conscious Taos to repurpose and recycle waste. Except for Los Cordovas in Rancho de Taos, the folks at Solid Waste are still processing the recycling at the other seven transfer stations without extra help.
There is still much to be done, and it helps if the public knows the details, the overview, and an estimated timeline for re-implementing town and county recycling in a sensible way. We can trust that the passion our county has for recycling and the realities of the responsibilities of the administration(s) will create a thriving recycling program. We just have to do our part and be patient.