The Ray Lovato Recycling Center is skilled at diverting trash. Last year it kept more than 1.25 million pounds of recyclables from reaching Sweetwater County landfills. That’s about 5,300 cubic yards of landfill space that was saved.
Part of that is due to increased buy-in from residents, who are dropping off more recyclables. Students at Northpark Elementary School collect paper and cardboard as they learn about responsibility and conservation. However, now that the Ray Lovato Recycling Center is in danger of closing, these good habits may die.
“It will be sad for the kids to not be recyclers anymore,” fourth-grade teacher Lorna Bath said.
Through the Recycling Center’s hard work, goods are recycled, local jobs are provided, and our impact on the environment is mitigated. Its reach and efficiency have grown since it’s founding nearly 25 years ago, but now it is threatened by reduced prices for recyclables and sharp budget cuts. It’s about two weeks away from closing if additional money, especially previously promised funding, isn’t provided.
Concerned residents packed Rock Springs City Hall during a public meeting Thursday on the future of the Recycling Center. They stressed the importance of the service it provides and the need to keep it going. We hope those who control the purse strings recognize that its value goes beyond the sale of the goods it recycles.
It prolongs the life of the landfill. We doubt there’s a plan to deal with the increased input if recyclable items are all dumped instead. Less trash means less accumulation in the community. Those who collect free-wheeling litter know it would be worse without the Recycling Center’s efforts. The annual cleanups are approaching in Green River and Rock Springs, and will be on May 4 and May 18, respectively. The volunteer efforts compliment the center’s mission. Then there’s the fact that pollution doesn’t discriminate. When it returns through groundwater or wind, it doesn’t first check your address before filling your mouth or lungs.
A short-term injection of cash and long-term planning are needed to continue recycling. One unresolved issue is funding from Sweetwater County Solid Waste District No. 1. In 2016, its annual support for recycling from $110,000 a year to zero. This past year, the Recycling Center Board renewed relations with Solid Waste District No. 1 and asked for $85,000. The district earmarked $60,000, or about 70 percent of the request, in its 2018-19 fiscal year budget. So far it has only provided $17,800, or roughly 30 percent.
We wonder why the promised funding hasn’t arrived in a timely manner. You can’t pay bills with promises. The county district would be in similar trouble if its finances became just as inconsistent. Recycling Center Board President Devon Brubaker said if the outstanding $42,200 is approved, recycling could continue beyond the projected April 26 closing date. In addition, another $17,800 would be required to keep the center going to the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Brubaker estimates that the center will need $189,500 annually to keep operating.
As the Recycling Center seeks fresh or restored partnerships, we should take a look at how our waste is managed in Sweetwater County and ask:
— What resources such as facilities, equipment and manpower could be combined to improve service? Sweetwater County, Rock Springs, Green River and local businesses should see what they, together, could do better. Maybe the borders and responsibilities of Solid Waste District No. 1 should be redefined.
— What would it take to create new opportunities? The public proves there is a desire for recycling, and it would benefit from a centralized recycling center for the county or the resumption and expansion of curbside recycling. More should be done to improve service and make it easier to participate.
— Who can we turn to for additional support? Increased communication and partnerships are required to give the Recycling Center longevity. Overtures should be made to industry leaders to see what kind of assistance could be provided in the form of money, materials or buildings, where donations may lead to tax write-offs. Talented grant writers could also be engaged to bring in more funding and place less burdens on local shoulders.
— How can we better educate the public? If you don’t know about needs, you can’t be part of the solution. Making sure people are informed about what is going on and what they can do needs to be part of the strategy.
Those who want to show support for the Recycling Center can continue to deliver recyclable goods – preferably properly cleaned and sorted. It accepts corrugated cardboard boxes; magazines; office paper of all colors; newspapers; paperboard such as cereal boxes; aluminum cans; tin cans; food and beverage cartons; plastics No. 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7; unsolicited direct mail, and phone books.
People can also donate time as volunteers are vital to keep up with the 300-plus daily drop-offs. Multiple fundraisers are being organized, and interested individuals and businesses should reach out to see how they can be involved. The public is also invited to weigh in on the topic at the next Solid Waste District No. 1 meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m. April 23 at the Rock Springs Housing Authority Office at 233 C St. We hope to see you there.
The local landfill was built out of view and smell of city limits. Perhaps keeping it out of sight has kept its impact out of our minds. Of course, whether we give it the deserved attention or not, the bill is coming due. We have the option of supporting an existing, efficient entity with a proven track record if we act immediately. Alternatively, if we delay action down the line, we can pay a greater amount to start from scratch to rebuild a system that may not be as dependable as what we currently enjoy. We recommend following the advice of Northpark student Sunny Conder.
“If we don’t do it, we won’t know how to do it later.”