Toss It Right Here

Recycling program adds to plastics collected, expects revenue

Pesky thin cardboard boxes and clear clamshells can finally go into Santa Fe's recycling bins as a new deal by regional waste managers is expanding collection by outsourcing sorting.

And that's not all: City officials announced Tuesday that recycling bins at curbside can now include phone books, paperboard/chipboard such as cereal boxes and egg cartons, paperback and hardcover books, plastics #3 through #7 including yogurt tubs and salad clamshells, and milk cartons and drink boxes.

County residents can drop off the same list of items at the rural collection sites.

The change comes as the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency has entered into a contract with Albuquerque-based Friedman Recycling and will no longer sort materials at the local facility.

The partnership may allow the agency to make a little more revenue and address long-standing complaints about collecting a limited list of items.   

Previously, the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency's Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station (BuRRT) had not accepted #3-#7 plastics because they don't offer the resale value plastics #1 and #2 do. Plastics #3-#7 also don't arrive in quantities significant enough to justify collecting and storing them until they reached a sizable enough quantity to sell, officials argued.

It's only by combining powers with Friedman that they'll reach those quantities, says Adam Schlachter, education and outreach coordinator for the agency, managed jointly by the city and county.

"Nothing is changing at BuRRT other than the fact that the bins at front will be able to take these materials," Schlachter says. "With the contract with Friedman, we're basically taking the separation part out of the equation, so we're going to be taking all of our materials down to them, and they're going to be separating it."

The domestic market for these materials is growing, he says, and the hope is that it'll be returned to manufacturing centers in the US, rather than in China or India.

Staff at BuRRT will be moved internally to adjust to changes, but nothing will functionally change for customers, he says.

Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency is expected, however, to save roughly $200,000 a year with this change. The agency will share in the resale value of materials collected, per an average market calculation set in the contract with Friedman that should allow for strong markets to return revenue. That returned revenue will support the program and its operating costs, rather than passing costs on to customers, including the City of Santa Fe.

"We're not in the business of having recycling make money," Schlachter says. "For us as an agency, our goal is to make sure that we're running our programs efficiently and that for us, recycling allows us to extend the life of the landfill.…Our goal is to make sure that it doesn't cost us any more to recycle than it would to build more capacity at the landfill."

Diverting more materials to be recycled saves the agency the costs of expanding the Caja del Rio Landfill, which it also operates.

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