Taos County has a centuries-long history of respecting the environment and conserving natural resources. In recent times many of us were drawn here because of those traditions and the landscape they preserved. This ideal has eroded some over time for many reasons, but that's partly due to the widespread use of disposable packaging and other non-biodegradable conveniences.
With the closure of the town’s collection center, the Sturm und Drang of local recycling has returned to the pages of the Taos News and our conversations. Many locals are “woke” to environmental issues, and individual recycling is one of the few ways we can feel part of the solution. With less than eight percent of our local trash going to the collection center, however, town officials have determined that recycling is too expensive to support with public funds.
A quick search online yields more questions than answers about the challenge of recycling in small towns. First is the matter of cost as a percentage of relatively small municipal budgets. Whether managed directly or contracted, the collection, sorting, cleaning and transport of recyclables is a significant expense. Land and sea transport is not only expensive but contributes to pollution. At the other end of the process, a market must be found for “uncontaminated” recycled glass, aluminum, etc. to be converted to new products. Plastic Free Taos and other local organizations offer alternatives, but worthy as they are, these can account for only a small part of the recyclable waste in our landfill and on our roadsides.
To preserve the historic value of living lightly on this land, we need a new vision. We need town and county officials, staff, NGOs and residents to work together to plan, invest and act. We need to consider the wide variety of options available under “reduce-reuse-recycle.” It’s a challenge that demands a more substantial and united effort.