What Does the Future of Recycling Look Like for Rock Springs?

What Does the Future of Recycling Look Like for Rock Springs?

Ray Lovato Recycling Center. SweetwaterNOW file photo

ROCK SPRINGS — Determining whether or not Rock Springs should move forward with curbside recycling is something the Ray Lovato Recycling Center board would like the City of Rock Springs to answer before they decide to purchase a half million piece of equipment.

During a recent Rock Springs City Council meeting, Ray Lovato Recycling Center Board President Devon Brubaker spoke to the Council about the future of recycling and started the conversation about whether or not Rock Springs should move to curbside recycling.

Brubaker said they are in the process of looking to purchase sortation equipment for the center, however, this would be a $500,000 investment. The purchase of this equipment would allow the center to start taking single-stream recycling into the center for curbside recycling in Rock Springs.

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According to Brubaker, Green River has mandatory curbside recycling, but they are trucking all of their recycling to Salt Lake City for sorting and processing at a significant cost to Wyoming Waste Services, which passes that cost onto the customers.

If the recycling center could purchase sorting equipment, it would be able to process all of Green River’s recyclables, which would save them money, he said.

Brubaker said he was trying to gather feedback from the Councilors to see if this is something they think the community would support. They do not want to spend half a million dollars on equipment if Rock Springs residents aren’t on board.

“It does not make sense for us to go and procure this equipment if we can’t get Rock Springs recycling,” Brubaker said, “There’s not enough volume. It’s a volume game and we need Rock Springs to be all in on it.”

In order for curbside recycling to happen, the City Council would need to make changes to city ordinances and look at franchise agreements with Wyoming Waste Services and Peak Disposal. They could ask the franchises to require residents and businesses to recycle. They could also ask the franchises to offer curbside recycling as an option to their customers, but not a requirement. Brubaker said he would prefer they make it a requirement.

“I know it’s a big topic and it’s something you’re going to want to listen to your constituents on and hear public testimony on…,” he said.

The Council did have some concerns regarding how the program would be rolled out and what its success rate would be after a few years. They also wanted to know if the current recycling center could handle the new volume of recyclables.

Brubaker said they could add a tension-structure to the facility to help accommodate the increase in recycling, but that wouldn’t be a permanent solution.

This would be one way to increase the landfill’s lifespan. The more that’s being recycled and not taken to the landfill will increase its lifespan.

After much discussion, the Council decided it will continue to look at what it would take to start a curbside recycling service.

Recycling Center Operations

During 2021, the center processed 1.93 million pounds of recycling, which averages 7,685 pounds per day the center was open. That’s a 200,000 pound increase from 2020’s total, Brubaker said.

“That is being hand sorted,” Brubaker said. “I felt that was pretty impressive.”

The recycling center has gone through some changes throughout the years and some of the most recent took place this past summer. Brubaker said the employees are working hard to make sure the facility is taken care of. One challenge the center is still facing is running without a manager. That position opened in the summer and due to budget concerns, the board decided not to fill it.

Brubaker said the center also received less funding from the Sweetwater County Solid Waste District No. 1 because they are also trying to run with a smaller budget. The center has been successful in making up the difference by not hiring a new manager and by taking advantage of higher market rates for cardboard and other materials.

“As recently as last month, we were getting $150 a ton for cardboard,” Brubaker said.

There was a point, just two months ago, where they were receiving $3,000 a ton for milk jugs, which was a record high for the market, he said.

Brubaker said the recycling center is becoming more of a regional center than a Rock Springs facility. The center collects recyclables from Farson, Eden, Baggs, Opal, Sheep Creek, Superior, Manilla, and all of Green River and Rock Springs’ commercial cardboard.

“We’re not just a Rock Springs entity anymore, if you will, we’re really trying to be a regional recycling center for southwest Wyoming and with our plans going forward that can expand even more,” Brubaker said.

To listen to the entire discussion, watch the video below. The recycling discussion starts around 58 minutes.