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Here's how recycling gets done in Las Cruces

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Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels, Green Connections
Published 3:14 p.m. MT July 13, 2019

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If you’re like most people, you put your blue bin out in front of your house every two weeks packed to the brim with flattened Amazon boxes, aluminum cans, office paper, water and soda bottles, and perhaps a rinsed milk jug or two. Beyond knowing that it all leaves in a truck, and your empty blue bin is ready for another two weeks, do you know how exactly your Las Cruces recycling is processed?

“The entire system operates like a wheel, where the spokes are the path from individuals to the larger community out to our recycling processors who sort and pack sellable material,” explained Patrick Peck, director of the South Central Solid Waste Authority.

Let’s start with the wheels on the road. The name on the side of the recycling truck is Friedman Recycling. Friedman is contracted by the SCSWA to both collect and process recyclables collected in a single-stream.

“Single-stream” recycling means that you can throw all of your clean recyclable items into one bin. Friedman picks up the materials at your curb and takes them to be sorted. The concept is: The more convenient it is for you to recycle, the more you will do! No more separating paper from aluminum from plastics from cardboard — no more hauling materials to the high school parking lot on Saturday morning where volunteers help you unload. All you have to do is put your accepted, clean and dry recyclable materials into the blue bin to head off to a new life.

Las Cruces recyclables go to Friedman Recycling’s MRF in northeast El Paso. There, the staff separates out the trash, and goes through tons of materials every hour inside the huge facility filled with conveyor belts, giant magnets, hugs bins for each material, balers and technology that makes sure like items are bundled together and made ready for shipment.

While that spoke extends out of New Mexico proper, it is a part of the Rio Grande Recycling Corridor, a new agreement between recycling agencies in four cities — Las Cruces, El Paso, Albuquerque and Santa Fe — to make sure that two million customers know how recycling works today. The four cities working together increases the clout to work with existing (and attract new) regional businesses that can use high quality, clean recyclables to manufacture into new items.

One large scale end-market is a cardboard mill in Prewitt, New Mexico. To that location, come 18 different New Mexico recycling processing hubs, communities with more than 40 new drop-off sites since 2013 … and 68 registered recycling facilities in the state.

“Urban areas have shown their dedication to continue their recycling programs,” said Sarah Pierpont, executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition. “Many of New Mexico’s rural hub-and-spoke systems consistently show high tonnages of sellable recycling, even amid market challenges. Production of high‐quality material and a development of strong relationships with new future end-markets could help pay for recycling operations in the future.”

Green Connections is submitted by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) managing solid waste, recyclables, and working to stop illegal dumping for residents and businesses throughout Doña Ana County. Contact the SCSWA at 575-528-3800 or visit www.SCSWA.net.

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