Environmental Services Q & A

Cullet or glass pebbles made from locally recycled glass. Courtesy/LAC
Q & A with Tom Nagawiecki
Los Alamos County Environmental Services Specialist

Q:  The Environmental Services Division has been busy over the past few months working on expanding recycling in Los Alamos County, can you tell us about some of the new projects you have implemented?

A:  The biggest program we launched at the end of September was our new glass drop-off recycling program. This program enables residents to recycle glass bottles and jars of all colors at one of our convenient drop off locations: the Eco Station, Sullivan Field Recycling Center, and Overlook Park Convenience Center.

Another program we just launched a couple weeks ago at the Eco Station is reuse stations for electronics and household chemicals, fertilizers, paints and similar products. When residents bring these items to the Eco Station for recycling they now have the option to place them at the reuse station, if they are still in a usable condition. Then residents can come in and pick up items from the stations and reuse them. 

Q: Those sound impressive, tell us a bit more about these new reuse stations?

A: Residents have been asking for a while for some new reuse opportunities, and our staff here sees that a lot of quality material ends up being sent to the landfill. So we developed this reuse station idea to target a couple of areas where we get a lot of reusable materials. The hope is that we can keep usable products circulating in the community, and focus on recycling/disposing of those items that have reached the end of their useful life. It all goes back to the waste management hierarch also known as the three R’s of waste management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; you should always try and reuse before you recycle.

Q: Are there any plans to expand the program to other materials such as furniture?

A: The idea is to start small by focusing on a couple of areas and get a feel for how well the program will be utilized and what sort of impact it will have on staff time. After we have collected some data we can make an assessment on whether expanding to other items is feasible. I would love to set up a comprehensive reuse center here at the Eco Station to help keep reusable materials out of the landfill, but this is a project that would be significantly further down the road. But we do have other great reuse outlets in town where residents can get furniture and a variety of other materials. We have a couple of great thrift stores, and also a very active www.freecycle.org group.   

Q: What has the response been like from the public for the new glass drop-off recycling program? Have a lot of people been participating?

A: The response has been great. Most residents I talk to are super excited about the new program and participants have been doing a great job following the rules by only placing acceptable items in the glass recycling dumpsters.  We have given away all 1,000 of the yellow in-home glass collection bins we ordered.    

Q: We have embraced the new program, but were out at Sullivan Field the other day to recycle glass and could not find the yellow dumpster. Were we just not looking hard enough?

A: No, it was probably being emptied at the Eco Station. With our current operations we pull the dumpster in to the Eco Station and have to crush the glass before we can get the empty dumpster back out there. This usually takes about an hour. We are working on fabricating another yellow dumpster so that we can drop off an empty dumpster when we pick up the full one. This way, there will always be a dumpster at Sullivan Field. The new dumpster should be ready by the beginning of November.

Q: Those new yellow glass dumpsters are very eye-catching, but they can be a little difficult to utilize for some individuals, especially if residents have been saving up glass for quite a while. Do you have any suggestions for people who cannot quite lift their glass bin up to the opening, or have very large loads?

A: Yes, there are a couple of solutions. One is to bring your glass into the Eco Station where we have different bins that are much lower to the ground and easier to access for those residents who may have some difficulties with the dumpsters. The second, and maybe less desirable solution, is to empty the bin a couple bottles at a time until you are able to lift and dump the rest of the bin into the dumpster.  

Q: So as we understand it, you crush the glass and create small pebbles, how can a resident get some of those glass pebbles for use in landscaping or other projects?

A: The glass pebbles or cullet are available at the Eco Station free of charge. We actually currently have a waiting list going since the program just started and we do not have a large volume of cullet. If you are interested in placing your name on the waiting list, you can contact Environmental Services at 662-8163.

Q: Anything else you would like to discuss?

A: I would just like to thank the residents in this community for all their hard work when it comes to recycling and reducing waste in Los Alamos County. If you have any questions about recycling, please feel free to give me a call at 505-662-8383 or send me an email at tom.nagawiecki@lacnm.us


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