Opinion: More about the town's recycling decision

By Fritz Hahn
Posted 8/29/19

At our Landfill Board meeting last week (Aug. 15) the following decisions were made:- The Landfill Board voted unanimously to temporarily take over recycling operations effective Sept. 1, 2019.- The …

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Opinion: More about the town's recycling decision

Posted

At our Landfill Board meeting last week (Aug. 15) the following decisions were made:

- The Landfill Board voted unanimously to temporarily take over recycling operations effective Sept. 1, 2019.

- The board also voted unanimously to take $100K out of reserves to fund the operation for the next six months during which time the board will request that Souder Miller & Associates conduct another landfill rate study, including the recycling operation.

- The board also voted unanimously to reimburse the landfill's reserves utilizing the revised rate study; at the very least there will be an increase to address repayment of the recycling "loan" taken out of the Landfill Board's reserves.

- Additionally, SMA will help to determine if additional increases are needed (a certainty in my opinion) to appropriately fund landfill operations as well as permanently funding the recycling center. The board will then make its recommendations to its participating governmental entities (the town, county, Red River, Eagle Nest, Questa and Taos Ski Valley) projected to be in late February with a final decision in March 2020.

- The board approved by a 3:2 margin closing the recycling center an additional day (Monday) and discontinuing recycling glass and plastics effective Sept. 1.

Re Monday closures: Monday is the slowest day at the recycling center; closing it one day a week will help to address the current recycling deficit and enable the Landfill Board to act in a cost-efficient manner going forward.

Re plastics: Of particular interest is the fact that the town has been collaborating with an engineer who proposes using all grades of plastic in the construction of walls for new building projects. The engineer has piqued the interest of University of New Mexico, and with UNM will be presenting to the Construction Industries Division of the State of New Mexico in the near future for possible approval.

In the meantime, economies of scale and the increased carbon footprint caused by plastic transport make the recycling of plastic from rural areas ineffective and counterproductive, if the goal is to reduce the carbon footprint.

Re glass: We have similar issues (as noted above) with glass as the Department of Transportation will not allow road construction projects to contain crushed glass.

Re landfill cell "fill" rates: A cell for receipt of garbage costs $1.1 million for an average cell life span of seven years. Over the same period the recycling center saves the landfill 15 percent of the space or a savings of $165,000 over that same time period. Current recycling deficits are at a minimum $50,000 per year. A cost-benefit analysis reveals that recycling saves $165,000 over seven years and the recycling deficit will cost $350,000 over seven years.

I can assure you that the mayor, town council and county commissioners are very concerned about the recycling issue; we must assure that we are actually reducing our carbon footprint and not asking taxpayers to pay for a "feel good" program that only 14 percent of our county's residents utilize and may in the end increase our carbon footprint.

Finally, there has been no determination as of yet as to the disposition of the town's 75 cent recycling fee charged to town residents.

George "Fritz" Hahn is a Taos town councilor.

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