Aluminum Collection Has Proven Worth


Bob Carlos and Emily McGay of the Kiwanis Aluminum Collection Committee survey a mountain of bagged aluminum and other metals taken in during a can collection day in the Sullivan Field parking lot. The next collection date will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Saturday, Jan. 16. Kiwanis pays for the metal it takes in, then resells it to a Santa Fe firm at a slightly higher price, pays the necessary bills, and uses the remainder of the income to support Kiwanis community projects.Courtesy/ Morrie Pongratz
Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

It’s been going on for many years: Every few weeks, the big, 4×4 signs go up; Kiwanis sets up a tent on the Sullivan Field Parking Lot; and, for a few hours, the club buys aluminum from a line of dedicated public supporters.

Bob Carlos, the current Kiwanis Aluminum Collection chairman, says the records entrusted to him go back to the 1990s, but he knows that the collection effort existed for some time before that.

Famous local recycling promoter Hank Winburn was involved for a long time.

Somewhat later, Steve Stoddard, former state senator from Los Alamos, was a constant volunteer. He usually served as cashier for the operation. He loved to be there because “he got to see people,” Carlos said, and, “He knew half the people who came and half the parents of the rest.”

Carlos himself has been helping with the effort since about 2003, and he estimates that during that time, Kiwanis has taken in 31.6 tons of metal, nearly all aluminum. He noted in a recent interview, “We do accept copper and lead and brass in addition,” but aluminum dominates collections.

In 2014, he said, the club collected 5,700 pounds of metal and brought in a little over $1,000 for the club.

The collection is conducted from 9 a.m. until approximately 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of each odd-numbered month of the year. The next collection, for example, will be on Jan. 16, the third Saturday of January—which is the first month of 2016, an odd-numbered month.

Why does Kiwanis carry out these collections, especially since the county takes in metal as part of its own recycling effort?

Carlos explained that Kiwanis pays for the metal that people bring in, while the county does not. This fact encourages people to make the effort to bring their metal to Sullivan Field, and Kiwanis then sells the metal for a somewhat higher price, pays its own costs, and uses the rest for the club’s public service projects.

A few facts:

  • Right now, the club is paid about 40 cents per pound for its metal. It keeps about half of that amount.
  • In 2014, the club collected 5,700 pounds of metal and handed over about $1,000 to the club.
  • The work of putting up signs; setting up the tent; weighing, recording, and paying for metal; and loading it onto a Santa Fe buyer’s truck is all done by unpaid volunteers, primarily Kiwanis members.
  • Why does the club record the names of those who bring in metal and the details of each transaction?  To reduce the risk of inadvertently taking in stolen metal.
  • The largest load on record was collected in October 2005—1,974 pounds, mostly cans.
  • A “bad month” is any month when the take is below 500 pounds.
  • Are “bad months” frequent? No, Carlos said. “Usually, things are pretty good … The average runs around 800 to 900 pounds per month.”

On an average collection day, Carlos said, he and about six volunteers do all of the work. Usually, all of those helping are Kiwanis members, but sometimes there are others—frequently spouses.

Carlos values the volunteers greatly. He is always interested in recruiting a few more—especially people willing to substitute for him on the occasional collection days when he is out of town.

He also values those who donate, and, he noted, although many individuals are involved, there are also several good-sized organizations—clubs, churches, etc.—that participate. He would love to have more of them join the effort.

Want to help? Come donate on Jan. 16, and see what the drive is like. Come back to help in March if you enjoy the action. A second visit would also give you a chance to meet Carlos. He’ll be out of town in January. However, Kiwanis is usually good for a substitute. This time it will be Immediate Past President Steve Boerigter. Come and get acquainted—and help Kiwanis serve the community.