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Recycling contractor announces plan to close

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Submitted Photo Bob Wooley, seen in a June 19 photo placing cardboard in a compactor, says that J&A Recycling LLC has notified the city of its intent to end its recycling services.

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The company that has provided recycling services as a contractor with the city has decided to close operations, and the Roswell city manager said the city will need to meet with the company owners to decide what happens next.

Bob Wooley, a partner in the family enterprise of J&A Recycling LLC, said that the company told its customers about a week ago that it was discontinuing its plastics, cardboard, paper, aluminum and tin recycling service, one that had replaced the city’s free recycling service.

The city had announced the discontinuation of its recycling services in June 2020 because of costs and problems with contaminated loads at unattended collection bins. It began removing the large green collection bins from area parking lots and limiting the items it would accept a few months later. The last of the bins were removed in January 2021.

Wooley said that he expects that its operations will conclude in about four to five weeks after all bins have been collected and the last recyclable materials shipped out.

He said that the business has faced increasing expenses since it began picking up bins from homes and businesses in the city and county in December 2020, taking the materials to a leased space at an industrial site on East Highway 70, or East Clovis Highway, for processing. Unfortunately, Wooley said, revenues have not grown.

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“There was a combination of factors involved,” he said, “but the biggest one is that people do not want to pay for recycling. They got too used to it being free for too long. They had many months to sign up, and we certainly had our name out there.”

J&A Recycling had its non-exclusive franchise agreement and equipment leasing agreement approved by the Roswell City Council in November 2020. The franchise agreement required the company to pay the city 7% of its gross revenues.

At its peak, J&A Recycling had about 240 customers, Wooley said. Now it has about 200 to 210 customers, although he said that he had hoped not long ago that it would be able to secure contracts with a few larger employers and businesses in the city.

In a letter to customers, the company stated, “We had hoped by this time that the city of Roswell and the majority of Roswell residents would get behind curbside recycling, but that has not been the case. Our revenue income is not enough to offset our ever-rising expenses.”

Wooley is a retired insurance agent and business owner and a former District 66 state senator who served for eight years starting in 2011. His son runs a physical therapy business. Wooley said his family has invested its own money in the operations and that he has no interest in continuing to run the business, even if new investors or partners stepped up.

“I will sell it. I am done,” he said. “I’m 75 years old and I want to go fishing.”

He said he has provided the city with the required written 30-day termination notice.

City Manager Joe Neeb said that the city received J&A Recycling’s notice and will schedule a meeting.

“We have this franchise agreement with them, so we have to figure out how to end the relationship with them as well, if we can’t find some other type of solution,” he said.

He added, “The city is disappointed more of Chaves County didn’t take advantage of the efforts of this local business.” He expressed appreciation for the company’s “willingness to try.”

Neeb said that the city would like to have some type of recycling option available to residents, but that the challenge will be to find a way to make that a worthwhile endeavor for any entity. Prior to making the arrangement with J&A Recycling, the city had said recycling operations were costing about $225,000 a year.

Neeb also said that local residents might ask for the collection bins to return, but he said that option is not a likely one.

“We were dumping so many loads back into the landfill because they were contaminated that not a lot of it was getting recycled,” he said. He said that unattended bins probably worked when they were first introduced, but people eventually started disposing of food and other materials that contaminated the recyclable items.

He said that the curbside recycling model used by J&A Recycling seems a better option, and he liked that the business provided different pricing options regarding sorted and unsorted materials.

He also said that the city budget and taxpayers bore the costs of the previous recycling efforts, even though county residents used them as well. If another recycling effort is undertaken, Neeb said, he would want to look at how costs are distributed.

Wooley added that he wants the public to understand that recycling is not a business that makes a lot of money.

A few months ago, after about six months of work, J&A Recycling delivered 20 tons of materials to El Paso for recycling, Wooley said. The company received $2,460 for the materials and paid $1,260 for shipping.

“So we made $1,200 after six months of work,” Wooley said, who added that he has not collected any money for himself since working with J&A Recycling.

The company expects to make its final shipment of 20 bales of materials once it picks up the last of its customers’ bins in about a month.

During the past year, the company and its customers helped divert more than 20 tons of materials from the city’s landfill, which Wooley said he hoped would be an incentive to some people in the area to consider other recycling alternatives.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.