Waste Not, Want Not
Recycling in Albuquerque
By Rachel Syme
Despite our reputation for clean air, clean water and good clean fun, Albuquerque can be a pretty dirty place. When it comes to generating solid waste, our fair town is no better than the next city. The average resident throws away roughly five pounds of trash per day. That same resident dumps as much as one ton of garbage per year (that's the weight of a baby elephant, if you need a visual aid). The city itself generates more than 1,500 tons of trash each day, an increase from 1,100 tons in the early '90s. Clearly, our reputation (or our landfill) isn't as sparkling as we'd like to think.
But never fear, there is something you can do to combat these scary statistics. The three Rs—reduce, reuse and recycle for the uninitiated—are like the holy trinity of waste management. Following a program of conservation and recycling not only cuts down on the amount of waste that workers must deposit into our landfill every day, but also saves the city (and its taxpayers) at least $400,000 per year. That's a hefty chunk of savings for simply watching what you stuff into a Hefty bag.
Obeying the first two Rs in your home takes a bit of conscious effort. Buying in bulk, shopping with canvas bags and avoiding disposable products are just a few things you can do to reduce and reuse. For more conservation ideas, you can check out www.cabq.gov/solidwaste/threers.html. Although these small actions are important, they are left up to the individual—the city is not going to knock on your door and make sure that you are composting. What the city can help you with, however, is the third and perhaps most important R; recycling. So if you are new to Albuquerque, or just want to know how you can better take advantage of our solid waste services, read on.
Although a weekly recycling pick-up will begin in January 2005, the current system allows for a pick-up every other week on the same day as your regular trash collection. Your recyclables should be five feet away from your trash bin by 7 a.m. on your trash day, in special clear recycling bags. A coupon for a free roll of these bags should come inside the summer water bill, but they can also be purchased for about $5.50 for a roll of 30 at many grocery stores. For a list of places where you can redeem your coupon or buy bags, see www.cabq.gov/solidwaste.
Curbside recycling covers most items—you can get rid of paper, plastic, aluminum, and cardboard on the street. Paper can be bundled with twine if you don't want to deal with the bags, and all containers should be washed out with their lids removed.
If you live in an apartment complex or you want to recycle glass (not allowed on the curb to avoid blood-gushing incidents), pack up your goods and head on over to one of 15 drop-off centers located around the city. The solid waste website (above) contains a map of the centers to help you out. Just think of recycling as a fun yet helpful adventure.
Thirty percent of what goes into our landfill is green waste, also known as that stuff from your yard that you don't want anymore. Leaves, trimmings, weeds, grass, vegetable skins and other organic materials all make up green waste, and it can all be recycled. This trash is organic treasure when converted into mulch and used as soil for city beautification projects. And wouldn't you like to be part of something beautiful?
Green Waste is collected curbside only three times a year, but you can take your yard clippings to one of three "convenience centers" (a nice euphemism for the dump) at any time. These centers are the gateway to the main landfill, but they will accept and process green waste as well. Green waste, as well as other excess trash, costs $3.30 per load to drop off at a center. Make sure you tarp your vehicle to avoid a sneaky clean-up fee.
Let's face it; there are just some things that cannot be recycled in the traditional way. Hazardous materials (such as chemical solvents, pesticides, etc.) should never be put in with recycling or the regular trash. Instead, call 761-8100 and speak to the Waste Management Department about these items.
If you have large trash, such as a crappy old couch or a giant useless ceiling fan, you can arrange for a large-item pick-up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the day before your regular trash day by calling the same number as above. This number can also help you if you need a new trash bin, if you missed trash day, or if you just want to chat with someone about all of the exciting solid waste programs that Albuquerque has to offer. For other recyclables and the businesses that love them, visit www.cabq.gov/solidwaste/noresrcy.html.
ReStore is a retail store that sells donated building materials at a fraction of the price. ReStore is run by Habitat for Humanity, and all of the employees are volunteers. The income generated by the store goes into building new homes for Habitat clients.
ReStore is located at 204 San Mateo SE and is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m.to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to the public. They accept working appliances that are 5 years old or newer, electrical parts (plugs, wires, cords), hardware, windows, roofing material and all kinds of lumber. For a more detailed list of what you can and cannot donate, visit www.habitatabq.org, or call 217-0130.
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