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Noisy glass? Think about stepping up recycling

December 7, 2018

No one enjoys the sounds of shattering glass. Whether in the daytime or at night, the noise when glass breaks — a lot of glass — would bother anyone. And some neighbors of a glass recycling drop-off point near Fort Marcy Ballpark say the commotion is too much.

However, of the city’s four points to drop off glass so it avoids the landfill, the Fort Marcy site is by far the busiest. There’s not another convenient location near downtown for a glass recycling drop-off site.

Right now, Fort Marcy generates about 3.1 tons of glass weekly, half of the total material dropped off at city centers (the other three sites are on Siler Road, off Airport Road and at the Buckman Recycling and Transfer Station; another site could be opened on Calle Mejia, and that’s an idea worth exploring, whatever happens at Fort Marcy.)

District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell, responding to her constituents, is supporting closing the site. “No one would want to live near it,” she said earlier this week.

For now, that option is on hold, while the city does something sensible. It’s going to gather more information.

Councilor Rene Villarreal, who also represents District 1, wants to survey nearby residents about their thoughts (site users already have answered a survey). That way, the city can determine just how bad the problem is. To be honest, on a recent visit there, it does not appear that the drop-off site for glass — even if bottles are broken with gusto — is close enough to homes to cause excessive disruption.

Still, we understand that noise is a sensitive topic, to be weighed against the needs of the city to keep recyclable material out of the landfill.

To repeat ourselves from a 2017 editorial, there is nothing wrong with tweaking the recycling program. Single-stream, where all materials go in one barrel, is still fairly new in Santa Fe. Trucks pick up plastics, paper, cardboard and aluminum once a week; glass is no longer gathered at the curb because of the cost. It also shatters and breaks machines.

Creating drop-off sites was a compromise, a way to continue recycling glass without spending too much or slowing down the recycling process.

Now, it’s time to make adjustments. The city survey should determine how bad the problem is with actual neighbors, not simply people who use the site, which did happen recently. (The email surveys of neighbors are possible because the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club shared its list of people it contacts over Zozobra; that’s a friendly gesture.)

It also would not hurt to do some actual noise measurements — stand across the street when the glass is being picked up and measure the sound volume. That would show whether the noise is too loud.

Already, the city will be changing collection containers to make the disposal of glass easier and quieter. Glass hauling is changing, too. There will be a container raised onto a truck rather than emptying a dumpster into the back of a recycling truck at the site; that should reduce noise.

Of course, these complaints also offer the opportunity to think of ways to bring back some sort of curbside glass recycling. The initial consultant report back in 2015 discussed the possibilities of private-public partnerships in recycling. Perhaps the city could continue its collection of the single-stream containers. Then, contract with a private partner for monthly glass pickup. Customers could pay the city extra to have the glass taken. With the recycling business under duress for a number of reasons, Santa Fe will have to think fast and hard to keep up.

Keeping trash out of the landfill remains a worthy goal.

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