LAS CRUCES – The multi-government agency that runs a major landfill on the West Mesa has stopped accepting green waste, such as tree limbs and grass clippings, at county-owned trash stations.
Officials with the South Central Solid Waste Authority said the move started Friday is temporary as they re-evaluate the service, and they’re hoping to relaunch it next spring. The change does not affect a city of Las Cruces-owned green-waste dumping site, the Foothills Landfill, 555 S. Sonoma Ranch Blvd., on the East Mesa. Both county and city residents can take their green waste to that facility, city officials said.
Separately, the waste authority also has stopped accepting electronic devices for free to be recycled, a project that’s been in place for seven years. That means residents in the city and county now must pay $5 per load of electronics, which can include up to three TVs or computer monitors.
Yard waste changes
Until this week, the free dumping of green waste was available at six of eight Doña Ana County Solid Waste Transfer Stations. It wasn’t available at sites in Garfield and La Union.
Patrick Peck, executive director for the SCSWA, which operates the transfer stations for the county, said the contract the agency had with a company that would process the material, such as by chopping up large pieces, has expired. He wants to re-evaluate how the green waste service was being carried out, redesign it and launch it again, hopefully by May 1.
“Some of our sites didn’t take in that much,” he said. “Landscapers from the city were coming in (and dumping). And in the end, there was a lot of trash coming in with that material, as well.”
The Anthony, N.M.; Hill; and Mesquite stations had been the most-heavily used for green-waste dumping, Peck said.
Robin Lawrence, interim solid waste administrator for the city of Las Cruces, confirmed that yard waste can still be disposed of by residents at the Foothills Landfill in Las Cruces.
“For residents, whether in city or county, there’s no charge for green waste,” she said.
Commercial landscapers, however, must pay a disposal fee to dump green waste in the city.
Free electronics recycling ends
The SCSWA also had been accepting about 200 tons of electronics per year from residents — for free — at both its city and county locations. Peck said the agency would ship the devices at no cost to Federal Prison Industries in Tucson, where inmates would break apart the devices for recycling — or “e-cycling.”
“But when the market turned down and they lost their source for televisions, they no longer were sustainable and they shut down,” he said.
Peck said he found out about the company’s change in June, just days before it shut down. That left the waste authority scrambling to find another source to take its stored loads of electronics. A site in Albuquerque took in four semi-truck loads before it shut down, too.
The electronics fall into two broad categories, TVs and computer monitors, and other devices such as cell phones and laptops, Peck said. Old TVs contain leaded glass and because of that are an environmental concern. While there’s a site in Oklahoma that would continue to accept those, the cost of hauling devices there was high, he said.
Peck said the state agreed to allow TVs and monitors, as long as they’re in small quantities at a time, to be disposed of in the Corralitos Regional Landfill on the West Mesa. He said it’s not ideal, but the agency doesn’t have an alternative.
“As they come in, they’re going into the landfill,” he said.
Recently, SCSWA imposed a $5 per load to dispose of electronics. Peck estimated SCSWA would have incurred a $100,000 cost if it hadn’t begun charging for the devices. He acknowledged he’s concerned about the possibility for more illegal dumping because of the new fee. But he said he’s hopeful after an anti-illegal dumping campaign in recent years, people won’t resort to that.
Doña Ana County Commissioner Leticia Duarte-Benavidez, who sits on the SCSWA board, said she was ” a little disappointed” about the new fee for electronics disposal, but she said there aren’t many options because of a lack of recycling companies that accept TVs.
“I’m afraid that’s going to cause more trash in the environment and it’s going to be a sad situation,” she said.
With the non-TV electronics, Peck said there still are some recycling companies accepting those. The SCSWA is storing them to ship in truck loads.
“It’s just not a very good market,” he said.
On the bright side, Peck said, the agency did have the free e-cycling program for seven years, “and we got a lot of that material moved out and recycled from our community.”
Residents can drop off electronics at the SCSWA’s west Las Cruces location, 2865 W. Amador Ave.
There’s been no change in the agency’s recycling of so-called “white metal,” which includes refrigerators and stoves. That’s still free for residents to drop off. With questions about the changes, call 575-528-3800.
Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443, email@example.com or @AlbaSoular on Twitter.