Help! My Town Doesn’t Recycle Plastic!

August 4, 2008

I am going to ask you guys for your advice with this post. We moved here to Taos, NM, a little while ago and while the town claims to be very progressive, even proclaiming to be a “Fair-Trade Town”, they have a major Achilles’ Heel – They do not recycle any plastic at all. Nothing. Not even a soda bottle’s worth. This is a big problem for us and I am sure for many other families in town here, but nothing seems to be in progress to remedy it. This is going to be a huge project (and pet peeve of mine), I imagine!

At this point, it looks like I only have one option to get any plastics recycled: sneak it into our friend’s recycling down in Santa Fe, as at least they have seen the light when it comes to how important recycling is! While Taos does recycle some paper and some aluminum (but not all of it, i.e. cereal boxes), any plastics I have to bag separately and keep in the garage until we head down the hill to Santa Fe. We don’t buy many products in plastic other than OJ, yogurt, and my wife’s bathroom supplies, they still add up over time. And we do not feel comfortable just throwing in the trash to be buried in the earth here in town. It’s just not right, but it is our only option right now.

While I am going to work to try to get the town to see the light on plastic recycling, I have a few other things I want to try as well if at all possible:

1. Do a deal with Terracycle so they get the entire town’s plastic soda bottles. Terracycle uses these bottles to package their own cleaning supplies, plant food, bird seed, etc – so that no new plastic is used for their packaging. (Look for a review here in a few weeks, as they sent me some sample products.) On their website, they say they aren’t in need of more bottles, but maybe I can talk them into doing some kind of deal.

2. Set up something where people get gift cards or even cash for turning in plastic recyclables. Maybe get local businesses to step up and give gift cards, or get a big business or two to give some money to get a program started. Not sure how that would work, but money always encourages people to do the right thing. (fortunately and unfortunately)

A few years back someone started a petition online to get the town to recycle (and there is one available right now for a ban of plastic bags, which is great), but I guess it did not work out. So it almost looks like the town is not interested in changing, and any efforts will have to come from the community. Maybe some of the ideas above will work, but this is where I need your help: Do you have any ideas on how to move forward with getting a town to recycle? Anyone know of any groups or individuals who have made these type of changes? If you have any advice or ideas, I would love to hear them!

Filed in: Recycling • Tags: ,
Like this post? If so, please consider subscribing to my full feed RSS. Or, if you would prefer, you can subscribe by Email:

Enter your email address in the box below. Address will only be used to deliver a daily email and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments (20)

  1. Nate says:

    Recycling for a town is really a cost / benefit thing. I heard an interview with a recycling center director recently and he said they’re really not making any money on plastic — the whole program is paid for by the aluminum and tin. I imagine in a smaller town that just doesn’t scale, and it’s not worth anyone’s time to recycle plastic.

    How about in the meantime: make your own yogurt in reusable glass containers, and buy frozen OJ. Then you don’t have to feel bad about throwing away so much plastic.

  2. MoneyBlogga says:

    Our town doesn’t offer ANY recycling whatsoever. When I lived at the beach, I literally recycled everything – we didn’t need a garbage can. I feel very guilty about throwing stuff away that could be recycled so I do what you do: bag it, store it and then take it elsewhere (a recycling plant) to dispose of it. Yes,it’s inconvenient and takes up a lot of space to store but I guess there isn’t any money in recycling as far as the city is concerned. If there were, I’m sure the city would be right on board.

  3. David says:

    Nate – It is a cost/benefit thing, and my town says they cannot do it because it costs too much – but yet they have to haul around all the plastic in trash. If that weight of the plastic was removed, I am willing to bet that the cost of dealing with trash would go down, leaving money to deal with the new plastic. Who knows. As for making our own yogurt, right now that will never happen as we are just too busy and we don’t own goats.

    MoneyBlogga – as much as it sucks, and I wish it wasn’t true, glad to hear we arent the only ones with the same problem!

  4. cchiovitti says:

    Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! Best of luck. We can recycle pretty much anything here, but we have to pay to have it done.

  5. Jaimie says:

    Hi David — That’s really unfortunate that the only option at the moment appears to be hauling the stuff to Santa Fe. I’m guessing most people in town are not going to be willing to do that. I think a starting point is to begin raising awareness. Once people are convinced there is a problem they will be much more inclined to do something about it. It seems like the best option at this point is going to be to approach the business owners as well as residents and make a case for selling and buying alternatives to plastic packaging and products. I’ve been reading a fair amount this past few weeks on the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and it is something I think few people are aware of. I personally have been encouraged to minimize my use of plastics after becoming aware of this. Here is a link to a pretty good article that contains links to three videos about it here, although there are lots of articles on the topic.

    http://www.larrysbeans.com/the-great-pacific-garbage-patch/

    Great post! I’ll keep thinking of options for you. Have you checked with Beth Terry at FakePlasticFish for ideas?

  6. Rene says:

    Well, as you know, we are in the same situation. Although this town isn’t someplace we’ll live permanently after summer’s over. But still, it kills me to know that so much plastic goes into the landfills and burn piles here, in this spectacular Colorado countryside.

    The only idea I have for getting people excited about recycling is to set up some kind of incentive program, as you mentioned. If you do think of something, let me know, as I’d love to get some kind of program in place here in Lake City before we leave.

    Great things always start at a local level. Thank Dog that people like you care enough to want to do something.

  7. CindyW says:

    Not that you have all the free time, did you look into becoming the plastic recycler? I know I am being insane here. But it maybe interesting to look into the cost and benefit side of the story. Then you may be able to take it to the city and show them that putting together a plastic recycling program may be cost neutral or even profitable.

    Where I live, we throw cans, bottles and plastic into one container. There are sorting stations that separate them. If Santa Fe also sorts the recycled items, will it be extra cost for your town to just add plastic into recyclable items? Just wondering.

  8. Gawky Green says:

    There’s never an easy solution…

    but the city I live in, only plastics 1 and 2 are recyclable. The local recycling center posted a pretty interesting article on why this was so (boiling down to the other plaguing “green” issue–money). http://www.recycleannarbor.org/dos/plastics.htm

    The RecycleAnnArbor.org works with the government in its recycling efforts, but they run as their own individual non-profit organization. They’d probably have some interesting worthy advice on how they got started.

  9. David says:

    Thanks for all your thoughts guys, I will def. check out some of those links. Cindy, I dont live in Santa Fe, so my town cannot give our recycling to them – I have to sneak mine in to our friend’s recycling down there.

    Will do Rene – another reason you should move here – we can set up a system here! ;-)

    Jaimie – Good thinking, I should probably do that!

  10. Brianah says:

    I work for Tulsa, OK in utilities and just thought I would shed some light…hopefully it is helpful. Cereal boxes are actually paper board and very few places have buyers for that, they only generally recycle what they can resell so the recycling company can make a profit. My town doesn’t even recycle tin due to no buyers from our recycling company.

    One thing you could check is with any private hauling companies or restaraunts. Many fast food chains will recycle paperboard and may let you drop off there for it to go with theirs.

    You may also see if you could find a company who has buyers for plastic and see if they would competetively price their service for your town. Good luck!

  11. David says:

    Thanks Brianah, for the tips. In a bigger town that might work, but I live in a small mountain town where we can barely get people to recycle aluminum cans – so there really isnt much concern about recycling at all here. But I will work to change that!

  12. Kathy says:

    Hey David. I’m lucky here in Big Bear I take my recyclables to the local disposal place once a week and use the money i get back for a variety of things. I’m kinda surprised there’s nothing in your new hometown. Hopefully you can get something going.

  13. David says:

    I hope Kathy, it is pretty bad!

  14. Sarah says:

    This is JUST my concern… as I move to Taos to take a teaching job in October. Being from Oregon, where EVERYTHING is recycled… I may be spoiled. But… count me IN! -for a support network with actions taken toward recycling in Taos. Also- NO BIKE PATHS!!! Let’s get this changed as well!!!

  15. david says:

    They are working on a plan already, should be ready by summer. It will be out by the landfill, thankfully, where I take my trash already.

  16. Leesa says:

    Hi! I just moved up here to Taos too. Today I went by the recycling place for the first time and was totally shocked that they did not take plastic. That’s how I found you! I came home and got right on the computer to see how I could change this problem. I went looking for any place in NM to recycle plastic. You say you know someone in Santa Fe? What do you say we put out heads together and set something up for Taos and then haul in all down to Santa Fe like once a week or as needed. I have a little money to invest in the endeavor, if you are interested in getting involved…..let’s do it. My personal email is legomyslinky@live.com. Let’s do something about this. Who knows, there could be something in it for us as well.

  17. David says:

    We bag ours up too, and just take it when we happen to be going down the hill. On the upside, it has encouraged us to find products not in plastic!

  18. Glenn says:

    Just moved here from Seattle where it’s the LAW to recycle. They’ll will stop picking up your trash if they find recyclable in it! Just cant bring ourselves to throw the plastics away so we’ve been bagging it up until we have a truckload to take to Santa Fe. Hope the landfill starts this soon. I’ve been wondering if the gas I’ll burn driving to Santa Fe and back will be worse than throwing the plastics in the trash. ???

  19. Kirsten says:

    Hi David or Anyone interested in Taos Recycling,

    Wondering if there is anything new that has been put into place for the Town of Taos since you last wrote? I just moved here from Seattle so it’s no fun doing all this work to sort & haul to the Town of Taos Recycle Center especially since it’s taking up space in my house. I do know that there is now a quarterly plastic recycling drop off at that recycle center. I was unable to locate a schedule for this online. Do you know where I could get one?

    I also heard something about two months ago on a news portion of KTAOS or NPR about the possibility of the town getting more money/grants for recycling…but did not get any more info on that. I am tempted to ask our fast food chains if they will take my paper board. I’m pretty sure that paper egg containers can be taken to egg farmers at the local farmers markets or Cid’s year round.

    Would be most appreciative to hear what you know about the current recycling situation.

    • david says:

      I moved away from Taos last October, and nothing had been put in place then. I doubt they will do anything anytime soon, since they have that occasional plastic recycling. Sadly, most residents continue to throw their recycling in the landfill and will continue to do so.