The giant pile of glass bottles and jars glint in the sunlight. The glass roll-off dumpster at the Los Alamos County Eco Station sparkled with multi-colored glass and the sight might have even been considered pristine if it were not for the random pieces of blight that stuck out like a sore thumb.
A large cardboard container, a paper cup from a fast food restaurant, a plastic bag bulging with bottles were a few things dotting the yellow glass recycling dumpster. It is these kind of items the Environmental Services Division are hoping to remove from the scene.
Office Specialist Tiffany Pegoda said contamination is a big issue with glass recycling. She said people sometimes get confused about how to recycle this material.
- Glass is not accepted in the blue mixed recycling residential roll carts or dumpsters.
- Glass can only be dropped off at the yellow glass recycling dumpster bins located at Sullivan Field, the Los Alamos Co-op Market, Overlook Convenience Center and the Eco-Station.
- The Environmental Services only accepts glass bottles and jars. Window panes, drinking glasses and light bulbs cannot be recycled.
Residents are asked to remove lids and to lightly rinse the recyclables and remove from bag or cardboard containers before tossing them into the yellow glass recycling dumpster. bins.
Environmental Services transports the glass to BURRT, the transfer station in Santa Fe. The glass is grinded into cullet; or glass mulch, and returned to Los Alamos where it is offered, free of charge, to the public for their landscaping.
If too many contaminants are found in the load then Environmental Services is charged to dispose of the entire load at the landfill. Pegoda said the cost to transport and dispose of glass at the landfill is significantly more than it is to recycle it.
Cullet, while not as popular as the Environmental Services’ free mulch and compost, is still a good option for residents’ yards, Pegoda said. The glass is processed so it will not cut and it is not dangerous to handle. Glass cullet makes a great mulch; plants can grow and be watered in it. As a general rule, seven pounds of glass mulch is enough to cover one square foot to a depth of 1 inch. Pegoda added it is a good option for gardens and lawns because it saves water and acts as a good guard against dust.
The cullet has been offered to the community since the County started recycling glass. “Since the life of the project we have taken in the glass, we recycle it into cullet to offer to the public,” Pegoda said.
She added that glass recycling “is not one of the popular items …because we don’t have any bottling plants nearby.” As a result, the cullet is more economical because the cost to transport the glass to nearest bottling plant would be higher than the return the County would receive for the material. She added the County encourages other ideas of what uses would be good for recycled glass.
“We’re always looking for other markets for it,” Pegoda said.
Pegoda encourages County residents to participate in the extensive recycling programs offered by Environmental Services. “For us diversion (diverting material from the landfill to the recycling centers) is very important in Los Alamos because all our solid waste is sent off the Hill, over 80 miles away,” she said.
When trash is sent to the landfill, the County needs to pay transportation costs, tipping fees and operating fees. As a result, “It is important to divert anything we can out of the landfill,” Pegoda said.
Residents are doing a good job with this, according to the data. Pegoda said the residential diversion rate is going up. As of last month, the County is up to 26 percent. The national average is 30 percent. She added the County recycles 200 tons of glass a year.
Environmental Services Manager Angelica Gurule commended the public, saying,“I think the residents really want to do the right thing.” She added the Environmental Services Division spends a lot of time doing community outreach and education including going to the schools and attending most community events.
If you would like more information on the recycling programs, call the Environmental Services Division at 662.8163 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on how to dispose of a number of items can be found at https://www.losalamosnm.us/government/departments/public_works/environmental_services_division/how_do_i_dispose_of_my_/
A pile of cullet, or crushed and ground glass, is available to County residents free of charge at the Eco Station. The cullet makes a great, water-efficient option for mulching yards and gardens. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
A row of yellow glass recycle bins at the Eco Station. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com