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City’s solid waste gets real about recycling

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On Tuesday morning, Michael Mayes, the Roswell Municipal Landfill Supervisors, explains how the recycling is sorted once it reaches the facility west of the landfill at 3100 W. Brasher Road. after citizens place their acceptable items in the green roll-off containers at nine locations around the town. (Alison Penn Photo)

The sanitation department shared statements on the reality of recycling in Roswell and other information about the landfill on Tuesday.

Steve Miko, director of sanitation, recycling and landfill; Michael Mayes, Roswell Municipal Landfill supervisor; and Vanessa Casey, administrative assistant at the Solid Waste Department met with the Daily Record on Tuesday morning at 3006 W. Brasher Road.

“We’re not just a place where you can come dump —” Mayes said.

“We’re not the dump — we are a landfill,” Casey interjected.

“But we talk trash every day,” Miko said and everyone laughed.

General information 

The Sanitation Department is under the umbrella of the Public Works Department. Miko said the state-regulated department has 37 crew members and that number grew from last year in order to improve the service of maintaining alleys. Mayes said the department has a vested interest in protecting the 400 acres of the landfill as well as the city of Roswell. In his own words, Mayes said the priorities of the landfill is to protect the groundwater, daily trash collection and disposal, protect the neighboring farmer and other neighbors, and divert some items out of the waste stream for Roswell as well as Chaves County.

Mayes said the department collects around 300-350 tons of trash per day — including recyclable items. For some information on the landfill, Mayes said the average cost for a cell in the landfill is $1,200,000 to over $3,000,000 and the state requires a double lining on the cells. Mayes said residents can view the center as a one-stop facility with two purposes — collecting and recycling.

Mayes and Miko said the landfill can take hazardous waste that can be bought at local hardware stores such as chemicals, pesticides, oil, antifreeze and old paint. For more information on collecting free paint, woodchips and free firewood year-round, citizens can look on the city website or call the department at 575-624-6746.

When citizens bring loads out to the landfill, Mayes said the responsibility to recycle and separate recyclables is on the citizens. All three staff members agreed the best way to use the landfill and recycling would be for citizens to bring their trash, separate the large recyclables to their designated area, and bring recycling to the second gate to be diverted. Now that the City Council has approved new permits, the landfill will soon be able to collect asbestos materials and other waste in the near future.

Casey said the gravest mistake that customers can make is not bagging their trash properly, to which Mayes added that this also involves customers not covering their loads during transport. Now that the landfill has implemented a fee for uncovered trash, Casey said she has seen an increase in customers securing their garbage appropriately. Miko said the state also keeps an eye out for this mistake.

Recycling rumors and truths

The city now has nine 30-yard green roll-off containers for recycling; the one at the Boys and Girls Club is the only one missing from the website. The staff said the container at Target is now in the Office Max parking lot. Miko said he would want to see more recycle roll-offs in the city and this would come from more interest in recycling from citizens.

The green containers are designated for the following recyclables: aluminum and tin cans, cardboard (except for frozen-food containers), newspaper, office paper, books and magazines, and plastic (No. 1 and No. 2). The large recyclable items are categorized as tires, cardboard, scrap metal, and tree branches and wood materials. All of the materials collected in these containers are diverted, bundled and picked up by Friedman Recycling Company in Albuquerque.

For items not listed designated for the green containers, Mayes confirmed these items do go into the landfill. Mayes shared that the city facility does not recycle glass because of the cost to transport them to the closest facilities, which are in Colorado and Arizona. Mayes also said tires go to the state rubbery in Denver City, Texas, and the metal goes to Roswell Recycle on Old Dexter Highway.

Casey said a rumor that the city didn’t recycle has been around since she started and she would share the department’s process with citizens. Since the landfill and the recycling center are adjacent, Casey said this could be a reason why citizens assume recycling is not happening.

“As a matter of fact, we try to sort and divert as much recyclables — because we don’t want it to go in the landfill,” Casey said. “We want to save airspace in the landfills so that other stuff that needs to go there goes there. Recyclables can go somewhere else, that saves us space in the landfill, and we have a bigger space so that actual stuff that needs to go there can go there.”

Often on social media, residents can post if there is something amiss with their trash service. Mayes said the admin staff monitors social media and welcomes citizens to share their complaints over the phone as well. Mayes added that if trash is not collected, the following reasons may apply: a rollout may not have been placed for service, something may be in the container that the department can’t collect, or the container is filled above the limit for the arm of the truck to lift. Casey also encourages residents and commercial customers to break down their cardboard boxes and bag grass clippings to decrease the volume in their bins.

Future plans

If citizens are concerned about recycling, Miko said they should utilize the green roll-offs or bring recyclables out to the facility. For future updates like curbside recycling, Miko said the costs associated with purchasing roadside bins is not currently available and the department would require different trucks for collection. Curbside recycling could be in the future when the market has stabilized, Miko said, and Casey said the curbside would cost citizens more, and more salaries would need to be paid. While the center does make money off recycling, Mayes said the annual amount does not pay for wages of one temporary employee.

With a fluctuating market for recycables, Mayes said the costs and worth vary and change with all recyclable materials constantly. Miko said China has stopped taking worldwide recycling materials and has slowed down recycling, but he added that Roswell is recycling correctly due to the current diverting process. Casey said the recycling center was more of a transfers station and Friedman’s has the final say once it is bundled. Mayes said he has lived in other states and added that New Mexico is behind the times as — but improvement requires Legislature attention.

Education element

All staff members agreed that education surrounding the landfill and recycling is important to them. Casey said she bases her customer service off education because she was once a resident and learned when she came to work for the solid waste department. Mayes said he has given tours to Boy and Girl Scout troops and schools — which are available when scheduled ahead of time — and he welcomes any questions and interactions with the citizens.

Mayes said that trash tells a story and he can usually tell if people are moving, divorcing or just got a tax refund.

Miko said Roswell Recyclers are a loyal group and with Carlsbad and Artesia’s facilities shutting down their center, Roswellians would be protesting at City Hall if such an instance occurred. Mayes said some of these recyclables are coming to Roswell now.

Mayes said when customers come out, their view of the department can be narrow — but with one-on-one interactions, their perspective and understanding can broaden to the full scope about how the landfill and the recycling actually works.

Miko said he wished the education component was more robust with funds to support it, which could happen in the next five years, and perhaps a position with education with a focus to go into the schools and assist the public. Casey added the Earth Day education programming in collaboration with the parks department is something she would like to see reinstated.

“We get a lot of residents that will talk down on us a little bit, but we know what we’re doing for the environment,” Casey said. “We know that we’re doing a good job with helping the environment and keeping that trash contained and trying to keep it away — if we didn’t do trash, where would this trash go?

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.