The Los Alamos County Environmental Services Division is offering new roll carts for yard trimmings to residents. Courtesy photo/LAC
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Beginning in July, the Los Alamos County Environmental Services Division is upgrading its quarterly brush program with a new system.
Not only is this a new program for the County, but also for the state. Los Alamos is the first community in New Mexico to implement a curbside yard trimming roll cart collection program.
Residents can register online for the new yard trimming roll cart. The tan-colored 96-gallon carts will be delivered to registered customers’ homes prior to July. In these carts, residents can place organic yard trimmings including branches that don’t exceed 36-inches in length or 4-inches in diameter. Other accepted items are flowers, grass clippings, leaves, pine needles and pine cones.
Roll carts must be set out by 8 a.m., the lid must be closed and the cart must be 4-feet from any obstacles and 2-feet from other roll carts.
The collection schedule will alternate with the recycle collection schedule. Meaning, one week recycle bins will be collected and the following week the yard trimming carts will be picked up. Residents may request a larger or additional recycle roll cart at no additional cost to accommodate the alternating schedule.
To operate the program, a new equipment operator will be hired and a collection truck has been purchased.
Division Manager Angelica Gurule said the changes fit the Environmental Services Division’s core values, which are: diverting valuable materials from the landfill and maintaining (if not reducing) costs.
“We do understand change is difficult but this new program will give us the opportunity to divert 14 percent or 1,017 additional tons of valuable material from the landfill,” Gurule said.
Rather than going to the landfill, the yard waste will be transformed into mulch and compost and made available at no cost to residents. Managing material onsite is preferable, Gurule said. It’s “more economical if we can manage our own materials onsite versus sending them elsewhere to be processed.”
Gurule pointed out that to send waste to the landfill or recycling plant costs money. Currently, the cost for landfill waste is $24.55 per ton and $15 per ton to process for recycling. This doesn’t include hauling fees.
Before kicking off the new program, the quarterly brush and bulk program experienced a few issues. Confused by the quarterly pickup schedule, some residents left items for pick up too early or too late, while others left too much material out on the curb.
Additionally, Gurule said when looking at the data, a lot of yard waste was ending up in trash cans and only a small percentage of the population took part in the collection program.
Concerned about the unsightliness and safety issues, the Los Alamos County Council directed the Environmental Sustainability Board to look into the brush and bulk program in July 2015. In 2016, the board conducted an open forum asking for public input on the brush and bulk collection program. From there, Gurule said several public meetings were held.
The public has been included in the process, Gurule said, “They’ve been involved all along the way.”
In a survey, participants were asked if they supported a curbside organics roll cart program and 83 percent of respondents said yes. The new program was presented and approved in February 2017 by the County Council. The program was scheduled to begin in July 2018, which allowed time to make preparations for the new program.
To further conserve resources, improve efficiency, and maintain operational costs, the ESB conducted another open forum survey asking residents: “would your household be able to continue to recycle the maximum amount of plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard and have curbside pickup for these materials reduced to every other week to accommodate for yard trimming collection?” Approximately 76 percent of participants responded yes.
To support this change, Environmental Services is offering larger or additional recycle roll carts free of charge. To request a larger or additional roll cart, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505.662.8163.
The program’s success does depend on its participation but Los Alamos residents have shown strong support for waste diversion in other recycling programs, Gurule said.
“Our residents are doing a pretty good job keeping their mixed recycling out (of the trash); their glass and their cardboard sorted,” she said.
To register for a yard trimming roll cart, visit https://www.losalamosnm.us/government/departments/public_works/environmental_services_division/yardtrim_rollcart_registration/