Efforts to revive trash recycling in the City of Carlsbad would not happen soon due to costs and a weak market for recycled products, said the Executive Director of Keep Carlsbad Beautiful.
A 23-year agreement between the City and CARC, INC. and Rainbow Recycling ended in 2016, according to Mary Garwood of Keep Carlsbad Beautiful.
“This program was especially unique since it provided employment opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities,” Garwood said.
“At the time of the closing they experienced a broken conveyor belt, which was going to prove very costly to repair,” she said.
Garwood said recycling markets tumbled in 2017 when China refused acceptance of recycled items, like plastics.
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“This ban was called National Sword. China put their foot down as they claimed the majority of imported recyclables contained trash and were deemed contaminated. Mostly what affected us in our area with the National Sword passage was the plastics recycling,” she said.
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National Sword officially began in January, 2018, according to the Center for EcoTechnology (CET).
“The implementation of National Sword has reduced the rate at which these materials are imported. This has created significant logjams in the international recycling system, resulting in recycled material piling up at materials recycling facilities (MRFs) or worse, into landfills,” CET’s website noted.
Trash recycling has two sides
Patrick Peck, the executive director of the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) in Las Cruces, said there is a cost and people factor as New Mexico’s second largest city struggled to meet recycling needs.
“The program has and still is driven by our citizens’ desire for it,” he said.
Peck said a citizen survey conducted by the City of Las Cruces indicated an 85 percent participant rate for Las Cruces residents.
“I am not saying that everyone is 100 percent committed to the program, but it is a mandatory service for households within the city limits, and I have not seen any organized efforts to have the mandatory service repealed,” he said.
Peck said the recycling program in Las Cruces struggled in recent years as service credits were included for the value of materials after the Chinese ban of recycled imports nearly five years ago.
“The Authority was able to adjust our business model and our rates in ways that make our current program solvent. Our current rate of $7.33 per month per household is covering our expenses,” he said.
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Peck said recycling in Las Cruces started nearly 30 years ago. SCSWA took over operations in 2009 and a year later curbside recycling started.
State of New Mexico encourages recycling
“Sustainable management of solid waste and waste reduction efforts are key components to ensuring New Mexico communities are clean and beautiful places to live, work, visit and play,” said James Walton, spokesperson for the New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD).
NMTD provided funding and technical assistance through New Mexico Clean and Beautiful (NMCB) to municipalities, counties and Native American tribal governments for waste eradication, reduction and community beautification initiatives, read an overview of NMCB activities for fiscal year 2022.
NMTD awarded $789,000 in grants for the current fiscal year for beautification efforts across New Mexico.
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More than $30,000 was set aside for improving recycling and sustainable materials management in the state.
Walton said NMTD funded public-space recycling and recycle-right education projects.
“Residents and visitors alike benefit from increased recycling access and infrastructure,” he said.
Changes needed before recycling returns to Carlsbad
“We would need to be assured that markets exist to take the recycled products before getting started on a recycling operation. After that, talks could begin to move forward as we would be starting from the ground up,” Garwood said.
She said costs for a building, equipment and staff would need to be addressed if the City moved forward with any recycling program.
For now residents who need recycling can connect with CARC, INC. for limited services. Garwood said Teague’s Iron and Metal at 1702 East Greene Street accepted aluminum cans for recycling.
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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.