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Recyling group growing, continuing county-wide work

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Since early June, the committee for Bandera Recycles has gained traction over several months of meetings and assignments, working with a group to bring recycling to the county.

With the partnered cooperation of Commissioner Rutherford and Keep Texas Recycling (KTR), a Co-op of Keep Texas Beautiful, the group has formulated a more defined plan and is moving closer to their goalpost of bringing recycling back to Bandera.

KTR, who is contracted by Bandera County, promotes and supports the implementation of productive, cost-effective recycling programs in Texas, focusing on underserved rural communities.

At Bandera Recycle’s most recent meeting on August 23, KTR Director Rachel Hering stated, “People think that recycling is as easy as trash, but it’s not. In terms of where does material have to go, there’s not recycling centers all over the place and there are not landfills all over the place. A lot of the cardboard that we collect in our programs goes to Louisiana or Oklahoma, where there are more mills. I’ve seen the mistakes people make and I just don’t want you to make any.”

When it comes to glass, she said it would have to be shipped to Houston or Midlothian, and it is difficult to get things picked up if the location is past I-35.

“It has a bigger carbon footprint. It’s an environmental aspect as to why we don’t recycle glass as much as it is economic. It really just doesn’t make sense,” said Hering.

According to Great Forest Sustainability Solutions (GFSS), transportation costs are very high for glass due to its heavy weight. Glass also now has less demand due to being replaced by plastic and aluminum over the past 20 years.

GFSS adds that broken glass, which is common in handling, is a contaminant to other recycling materials and is hazardous to workers and machinery.

Hering said cardboard is a continual good product which makes a significant impact on keeping things out of the landfill. The average price for cardboard is $100 per ton; currently it’s $150 per ton. The Bandera station has a location to hold cardboard until they have a full load to ship.

She added the industry has done a “horrible job” educating people about recycling, using caps on plastic water bottles as an example.

“When these bottles go to large sorting/ recycling centers that have $100,000 balers that can smash cars, there is no issue with crushing the water bottles with the caps on them. But, with smaller balers, like here in Bandera, they can’t smash those bottles,” she said. “These will explode when smashed and bust the bale wire and they’re a mess. So, we need the caps to be off those plastic bottles so they can be compacted tightly.”

According to Hering, the bottles will keep trying to remember their shape and pop back out.

“We want to ship these plastic bottles as compacted as we can get them,” she said.

Hering told the committee the Bandera station was fortunate to have a dedicated baler for each commodity, so they wouldn’t need to switch out the material, which is costly and time-consuming.

“You do have to separate all the material you collect because it is all going to go somewhere else to get processed,” she said. “With a curbside collection service where all recyclables are mixed, that collector has to pay a $90 processing fee to have the material separated at the final recycling mill. We want to make sure that what you are recycling is a higher volume product.”

Rutherford said tin cans and other metals are currently only paying $100 per ton, and it is not worth it to recycle. Hering added aluminum is about $700 per ton.

In a letter to the committee, Hering stated, “Continued education is so important to ensuring that residents/businesses utilize the facility, utilize it correctly, bring the right materials, etc. It needs to happen on a consistent basis. I think that was definitely what Commissioner Rutherford was trying to get across. They didn’t have the ability to educate and were even looking for the schools or volunteers to help educate (we tried to get people organized, to come to community meetings but they weren’t successful) and that wasn’t happening and people were bringing the wrong things and that created additional trash and contamination. Contamination can kill a recycling program. Recycling only works if the material is clean. We’ve done so many educational campaigns lately and just restarted taking plastic again. Uvalde had a robust educational campaign, yet they too suffered from contamination and it had been years since they had done much education.”

What wasn’t working with Bandera County’s recycling program before? According to KTR’s evaluation, it was contamination of the recycling material, staffing issues, community support, and absence of recycling education.

To volunteer for Bandera Recycles or Bandera County Trash Cleanup, contact Bob Brischetto at 210-413-7264 or rrbrischetto@ icloud.com .

To volunteer for Keep Bandera Clean Roundup, contact Mike Stiborik at 713-922-7976 or mike@recoverypartner911. com.