A method to the recycling madness

Glass fills one of the many industrial trash containers at the Kingman Public Works Department facility. (AARON RICCA/Miner)

Glass fills one of the many industrial trash containers at the Kingman Public Works Department facility. (AARON RICCA/Miner)

KINGMAN - If you think you've been wasting your time sorting recyclables only to have them dumped into one big pile, think again.

The Kingman EZ Recycling Program is more organized than it appears to the average citizen.

The program has been saving the earth and space at the landfill since 2008, and Sanitation Department Superintendent Ed Tapia responded to concerns that recycled items are mixed together after the public places them in bins for specific materials.

"What that person probably saw was one truck picking up all the cardboard," he said.

The operation is actually a smooth, detailed process and the items stay sorted.

The department has four universal round-body trash trucks - meaning they can transport both garbage and recyclables, but never at the same time - running seven days a week and stopping at every recycle bin in town.

Some of those locations include South Side Little League Park, Centennial Park, the corner of Louise Avenue and Railroad Street, Bashas' Shopping Center and the new Safeway Shopping Center.

The Cecil Davis Park bins were moved to make room for the splash pad and are now on Louise Avenue after a brief stop at Monsoon Park.

The trucks make separate trips to pick up different materials: paper and cardboard, aluminum and tin, plastic and plastic bags, and glass sorted by color. The first round picks up cardboard and paper every day of the week. The next round picks up plastic and additional rounds on various schedules pick up metals and glass.

The materials are brought back to the city public works facility where they are separated into industrial-sized metal refuse containers. Other materials, such as heavy metals and electronics are taken to the city facility and then sorted for transport to recycling companies and vendors in Kingman, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Cross contamination is a huge concern and Tapia wants to educate the public about the need to sort materials before dumping them in bins. Styrofoam mingled with cardboard or plastic bags filled with bottles throws a wrench in the entire process.

"We're asking people to take materials out of the plastic bags," he said. "We have a separate container for plastic bags and we do recycle them."

Many of the materials are bailed into blocks and shipped to vendors. Those businesses might not accept bails that are contaminated with other products.

"We try to do our best to make sure everything we send is clean," Tapia said.

Public works employees state inmates to sort through and handle materials. The inmates also help the department with park maintenance and alley abatement.

Bulldog Disposal and Recycling, KAR Recycling and A & J Recycling are the local companies engaged with the city. About one and a half tons of paper and one to two tons of plastic goes to Bulldog Recycling every other day. Glass goes to Las Vegas about once a month. Aluminum cans are the lightest of the loads.

"People usually take those in for money themselves," Tapia said.

Market prices dictate where the public works sends materials. Some materials move faster than others depending on demand.

"To you and me, it's about saving the environment," he said. "To the vendors, it's about money."

Saving Space and Money

EZ Recycling lifts a burden on the environment and residential trash bills.

"The products are a diversion from the landfill," Tapia said.

The department collects an average of 83.5 tons of material a month. It costs the city $35.15 a ton to dump at the landfill. That's almost $3,000 saved by recycling. Since 2008, the city has diverted an average of 700 tons of materials a year from the dump into the recycling program for an average savings of $24,605 a year.

Without the recycling program, the $19.78 monthly charge on the bills of roughly 11,000 residential utilities customers would increase.

"That money comes from customers," Tapia said. "Not from the general fund."

The 83 tons a month spares the city landfill the equivalent of roughly 56 2015 Ford F-150 Super Cabs - or more than 2.6 million pounds.

Informing the Public

Tapia says the sanitation department coordinates with Kingman Academy of Learning and Kingman Unified School District on their recycling programs. They've given the schools recycling bins and work with the district's "Green Teams" to promote and educate students, teachers and the public about the benefits of recycling.

He has hopes one day of establishing a curbside program, but Kingman doesn't have the funds or facilities to make that happen.

Education and information is vital in getting the community to make the program more efficient. He says something as simple as reminding people to separate plastic for the plastic-only bins is a good start.

"If people have questions, they can call me. The more we educate, the better."

For more information, contact Tapia at 928-692-3102 or visit the website at www.cityofkingman.gov.