Column by Tom Nagawiecki
During the question and answer session of every presentation given over the last two years, I have been asked why Los Alamos does not recycle glass. Up to this point my answer has always been the same; there are no local markets, thus making glass recycling a high cost and high environmental impact activity.
In a recent visit to the Village of Angel Fire, New Mexico County staff was exposed to a local glass recycling system that is successfully diverting glass from the landfill in a financially and environmentally responsible manner.
In Angel Fire, they are utilizing a small glass pulverizer that takes whole glass bottles and creates clean glass pebbles with rounded edges.
These pebbles are then used locally for maintenance and upkeep of dirt roads.
Los Alamos County is investigating implementing a similar local glass recycling program.
The current program design would enable residents to drop off their glass at convenience centers located around town.
Glass would not be collected as a part of the curbside programs since it will be processed separately from the mixed recycling stream.
The glass bottles would then be collected by County staff, brought to the Eco Station and fed into the pulverizer to generate small glass pebbles.
The material generated would be similar to the glass pebbles seen in the landscaping at the Eco Station.
The pebbles would be given away for free to residents for use in landscaping and other projects, utilized for maintenance purposes at the Eco Station, and used as base course for trails.
The County is also investigating utilizing the pebbles for pipe bedding, a common use in other communities across the country.
This local recycling program, if implemented, would eliminate the need to ship glass off the hill.
The majority of County waste is currently sent over 200 miles roundtrip to a landfill in Los Lunas.
Based on past recycling programs in the County, the program could divert anywhere from 200 to 500 tons of glass from the landfill on an annual basis.
The avoided shipment and disposal would result in cost savings for the County and reduced environmental impact.
The County wants to know your opinion on this proposed glass recycling program.
Is this a worthwhile program to help reduce the amount of material sent to the landfill?
Would you be willing to bring your glass to drop off locations for recycling?
Would you be interested in utilizing the recycled glass pebbles in your landscaping projects?
This proposed glass recycling program is part of a much larger initiative focused on creating a more sustainable Los Alamos County.
To learn more about County efforts to create a more sustainable community and to learn what you can do as a resident to live a more sustainable lifestyle, log on to the County’s sustainability web portal at www.losalamosnm.us/getgreen. Get Green Los Alamos: Creating a sustainable community.
Editor’s Note: Tom Nagawiecki is the environmental services specialist for Los Alamos County.