The Community Service of Recycling By Cassie McClure June 18, 2021

Headline: The Community Service of Recycling

Submitted by South Central Solid Waste Authority

Date: June 18, 2021 (Bulletin)

Mike Garcia finds the trucks in the metal pile. Over his 22 years at the Las Cruces Recycling Center, Garcia has an impressive collection of toy trucks lining the walls, and has collected stories about how recycling has changed over the years.

“I’ve seen the age of people who recycle get much younger,” he said. “When I started, it used to be just older people. We see people come with their whole family, with the young kids helping to recycle too.”

For him, working for the community was almost the family business. His dad worked 26 years at Las Cruces Utilities in gas; his brother and sister for over two decades in the city’s transit department.

“Working with South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) has been full of benefits, something I heard about from my dad,” Garcia said. “I am working toward a retirement, and I’ve been able to take what I liked about working grocery stores for 17 years, the customer service, and use it to help educate people who come to recycle.”

Garcia keeps an eye on those questioning what they bring, from plastic bags to the types of plastics that are recyclable. In the last two to three weeks, he’s greeted more people back in the Center, as people have felt more comfortable and COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

“They want to recycle plastic bags, but it’s not something we can do,” said Garcia.

Part of Garcia’s tasks to transporting recycling brought to the Center, located at 2855 W. Amador Ave., right before the transfer station entrance and weigh scale, up the hill to the station to bale it and load it for transport out of Las Cruces.

“Transportation is one of the most expensive parts of our recycling program,” said Patrick Peck, director of SCSWA. “If we could sort the recycling here, it would cut our costs long-term. Plus, looking at how we work with plastic bags – like the discussion at City Council – will also help. Plastic bags seem like they would be easily recycled, but they become a rope that jams sorting machines. In the future, we’re looking at ways to be more flexible in how we manage recyclables separately, not just plastic bags but also high-value items like cardboard and aluminum cans.”

Transportation costs are part of a 35 cent increase next year on the monthly recycling fee that help keep the program going – new trucks and bins – and manage a growing city.

Garcia still has a few more years before he retires, but he may see more people join him as recycling in Las Cruces grows. “I wish my dad could see how the city has grown,” he said. “There would be a lot he wouldn’t recognize; he’d be amazed.”

South Central Solid Waste Authority manages solid waste and recyclables for residents and businesses throughout Doña Ana County. Contact SCSWA at (575) 528-3800 or visit www.SCSWA.net.

Caption: SCSWA Recycling Center employee Mike Garcia has seen a lot of change over 22 years in the recycling world.