ROCK SPRINGS — After an announcement last week that the Ray Lovato Recycling Center would be forced to close without immediate funding later this month, the Rock Springs City Council held a special meeting Thursday night concerning the recycling center’s future and brought together a few organizations that are involved. Many comments from the Council, Center, Solid Waste District #1 and the general public left a hopeful feeling for the recycling center.
The Center has served Rock Springs with recycling services since 1994. Last year, over 1.25 million pounds of recyclable materials passed through the Center instead of ending up in landfills. Currently, the Center reported that they are on pace to break last year’s numbers with 1.5 million pounds this year.
Lack of Funding
Due to the tough market of recycling, subsidies are needed in order for most recycling centers to operate as recycling is not a profitable business. Throughout the years, the City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County Solid Waste District #1 have been the main subsidizers for the Center.
Counselor Keaton West reported that since 2013, the City has donated $523,516.52 including this fiscal year. He emphasized that the City does support recycling and the Center’s efforts.
In 2016, Solid Waste District #1 cut off funding for the Center completely due to several communication issues which resulted in a $110,000 per year source of funding.
In June of 2018, after working closely to build the relationship with Solid Waste District #1 once more, they earmarked $60,000 for the Center in their 2018- 2019 fiscal year budget. As of this report, the Center has been given $17,800 of the $60,000. When asked by Mayor Tim Kaumo whether Solid Waste District #1 would be able to grant the remaining $42,200 to the Center, Solid Waste District Chairman, Andy Foster, said that he feels that they are “now in a position to release the funds.”
The Solid Waste District Board is set to meet on April 23rd where it will be determined whether the Center will receive the remaining $42,200.
In order to operate, the Center will need $189,500 in funding for the next fiscal year in addition to the needed $50-60,000 to finish out the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Recycling Takes the Whole Community
Public comment varying from board members to college students reinforced the rallying cry that supporting recycling in the community, as Mayor Kaumo put it, “is morally the right thing to do.”
There were three main values as Mayor Kaumo said that he believes makes recycling at the Center a necessity within the community. The first is that the Center employs good people, secondly that recycling is a positive practice and third it is valuable to divert recyclable materials from the landfill. The Mayor also stated that it takes the community to make recycling possible.
Randy McConnell made a claim that supported the Mayor’s belief that we each have a choice whether or not to participate in recycling.
“The world is leaning more towards taking care of itself. Let’s not fight it,” McConnell said.
The fact that education about recycling is a major problem was spoken about as a stepping stone towards a community effort. Rock Springs High School science teacher, Larissa Apel, shared her experience of implementing recycling education. Two years ago, Apel said that she had reintroduced the high school recycling program. In addition, she has also taken it upon herself to teach recycling in her classroom. Despite being difficult to change the mindset of recycling, starting with the youth has been a start to her efforts in educating.
“We’re making that effort to start with our young people,” Apel said. “We’re trying to teach these kids to get them to go home and teach their families about recycling as well.”
The idea of curbside recycling was brought up as a hopeful service that can be provided in the future. While it would also fail to be profitable, the belief is that more residents would participate and would be willing to pay an extra fee for convenience and participation when it comes to recycling.
Discussion regarding the topic led to the type of curbside recycling which was ultimately speculation. Green River currently has co-mingled recycling which has a lot of issues connected to contamination of materials. The other option that was recommended was to have a few different bins in order to sort and prevent contamination.
Jared Leisch from Wyoming Waste proposed that if the idea of curbside recycling were to be executed, making it mandatory would be the best method of implementation.
“If we’re going to do recycling and we want to make it economically feasible in a large-scale way, the best way to do that would be to get the whole community on board. Whether that be with their support or a vote,” Leisch said.
How Can You Help?
There are multiple ways that you can help or get involved. First, you can help by recycling and using the Center. There are several recyclable materials that are accepted including metal, paper and plastic. The Center asks that any materials that are brought in are clean with no food, grease or liquids that can cause contamination in their bales.
Below is a more detailed outline of what is accepted in the Center.
Volunteer work is also always welcomed. President of the Board of Directors for Ray Lovato Recycling Center, Devon Brubaker said is that volunteer work is needed. Last month the Center saw double the volunteers than the previous month. Brubaker pointed out that volunteers help to lower labor costs at the Center and help it to become more financially self-sustaining.
“I would encourage anyone who has not volunteered to come sort plastics with me,” Brubaker said. “I’ll be there on Saturday.”
Those interested in volunteering can reach out to the Center on Facebook or by calling 307-352-6878. The Center is also open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 100 Sheridan St., Rock Springs.