For the past five years people living near Highway 12 west of Trinidad and in other rural areas as well as city residents could drop off paper, cardboard, plastic and other materials intended for recycling in big dumpsters along the highway and in smaller communities, but that picture will soon change.
Terra Firma Recycling, located at 201 W. Indiana Ave., will stop taking recycling materials after Monday, July 1 and the materials intended for recycling west of town will instead be headed for the city landfill, due to a rapid and ongoing decline in the market for those materials. The company is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 rural recycling facility.
Called the Purgatoire Recycling Project, it has depended on many dedicated recyclers, including local individuals and businesses, the City of Trinidad, Stonewall Fire Protection District, Tercio Ranch Foundation and Twin Enviro Services, who have supported the project throughout the past several years. Areas effected by the shut down include Aguilar, Trinidad, La Veta, Trinchera, Branson and Hoehne.
Ken Dochter of Terra Firma Recycling said in a Wednesday, June 12 phone call that the company simply could not make money on the materials at this time and explained the economic reasons for his company’s decision. “The prices paid for recycled materials have dropped tremendously over the past few years,” Dochter said. “Our biggest market was in China, but they’re not taking recycled materials from the United States anymore due to the ongoing trade war. Without government funding of recycling efforts the market could get even worse. We’re making less money on recycled materials every year, and it looks like prices will only continue to fall.”
He noted the price paid per-ton for recycled cardboard had dropped from $160 to $180 per ton a few years ago to just $30 per-ton today. The market was swamped with paper intended for recycling, without a big enough demand to meet current supplies and the prices for recycled plastic and glass had also gone into decline. He thanked all of those who had participated in the recycling project over the past several years, but he said his company had no immediate plans to restart its recycling business. “We have no plans to get back into the recycled materials business,” he said. “We wish the city the very best in their recycling efforts going into the future. We tried, but it just didn’t work out financially.
“Recycling is for the Earth’s benefit but there’s just no money in it right now. It’s going to take a concerted group effort by many parties to make recycling work over the long term. The nonprofit entities are trying to help, but they can’t subsidize recycling. Someday in the future, I can see where people are going to be mining landfills to recover all these recycled materials, but we can’t make it work financially right now.”
Trinidad City Manager Greg Sund said in a Wednesday, June 12 phone call that the City was engaged in ongoing discussions about recycling efforts going into the future. “The Chinese were complaining that a lot of the recycled materials they were getting from the U. S. were not clean enough for recycling, so they didn’t want them,” Sund said. “For homeowners to clean up plastics and glass for recycling would probably cause them to use a lot of water, and that kind of defeats the purpose of using our natural resources wisely. You have to balance the needs of the people who want to recycle against those who don’t want to participate. We are involved in ongoing discussions about our recycling efforts, and we just want to do it effectively at the least possible cost.”
Public reaction to closure of recycling center strong
Eric John Monson
In recent weeks we have heard from a lot of our readers as word spread on the closing of local recycling facility. Several emails were received. Many brought it up at the front desk of the office and most of the staff has been asked about it around town.
One such reaction came from reader Lynn Chase. We’d like to share the bulk of the letter, as it represents the reaction we’ve heard from many of you well.
Said Lynn, “I’m a recent transplant to Trinidad… My brother and his wife and family have lived here for over 20 years and I was finally able to build my home and relocate here in 2016. I absolutely love Trinidad, its history, its charm, and its people. I love small town living but, as with other big city transplants, I have had to adjust to readily accessible conveniences, such as options in grocery stores, doctors, etc. [A] small price to pay for living in this beautiful part of the country.
“I am an active conservationist and passionately believe in doing my small part in saving the planet – that includes recycling, composting, and trying to be a green consumer. I was delighted to see, that even in a small town like Trinidad, there was a recycle center. And ever since I moved here I have been a regular patron there once a week. When I was building my house, I recycled every piece of paper, cardboard and plastic that I could — all of the ‘subs’ knew not to throw anything in the trash bin unless they asked me. I am alarmed that the guys tell me that the recycling center at Dochter Lumber and Sawmill Co. will be closing as of July 1…
“I do not know all of the information that has been discussed at the city council [but] if the recycling center closes, then Trinidad’s city dump will be that much more impacted and there is only so much trash that one place can take.
“… It certainly would be a bonus to the City of Trinidad to keep our forward momentum going as a town and to do our part in reducing the waste on our planet Earth. If there is any hope in saving the recycling center, I would think that an appeal directly from the community might have an impact.
“I know that there are a number of very passionate people about recycling — just as I am.”