One of Mayor Tim Jennings’ campaign points was to bring a recycling program back to Roswell, but that will have to wait, he said at the town’s public forum on Thursday night.
The forum at the Roswell Convention Center was the first in a series for 2022-23 and also the first to be held in person since before the pandemic. The forum was also live streamed on the city’s YouTube channel and Facebook page and can be viewed on both sites.
Approximately 13 questions or comments had been submitted online by residents prior to the forum and city staff used these to develop presentations for the session on general topics for all wards. Questions also came from a handful of residents in the convention center audience as well as viewers online.
Because there were a number of questions and comments regarding crime and public safety, City Manager Joe Neeb said an additional forum on this topic would be added to the schedule, possibly before the end of this year.
For just over two hours, Neeb and his staff presented information on issues regarding city streets, solid waste, the state of city parks and youth activities. They heard comments and questions from the public about the town’s golf course, sign ordinances, weed control and repairs to the library.
Jennings spoke at the start of the forum and said recycling was a hot issue in the city.
The city’s 10 large green recycling bins were removed from public use in February 2021 after the city announced in June 2020 that it would end its free recycling program. A private company contracted with the city to provide curbside collection of recycling materials, but was unable to attract a large enough customer base to continue operations for well over a year.
Jennings said bringing back a city recycling program will take time and money, though.
“To do recycling and do it properly, we’re probably going to have to build a building to separate the recycled products that we recover as we go along, so it’s going to cost a little more than we thought, and that’s fine. give us some time,” he said.
Neeb said the city’s recycling program, in which people could drop multiple types of materials into the 40-meter dumpsters around the city, worked well until around 2018, when China stopped recycling. take recyclables from the United States, changing the recycling market around the world.
Dumpsters were also frequently contaminated with other materials that could not be separated from recyclables, meaning the entire load had to be sent to landfill, he said.
The volume of recyclable materials has also become an issue, he and solid waste director Abraham Chaparro said.
“There were a lot of people recycling, but it was flooding our system and causing other kinds of issues, including security issues,” Neeb said.
Chaparro said the landfill has an employee dedicated to sorting recycling by hand.
“As it goes on, it builds up and never ends,” he said. “We had to pay contractors to come and pick him up. We ended up paying them more money just to come and get it than it would generate,” he said.
But Chaparro also described research he’s done on recycling programs in other cities, and it boils down to two words: small steps.
He called Phoenix a recycling flagship in the Southwestern United States with a multimillion-dollar sorting facility, but he said the Arizona city still has challenges ahead.
“They have to trade their recyclables around the world. You talk about Brazil, China, South Korea. It goes everywhere,” he said.
“The consistent message I get from Phoenix and some of our recycling consultants I’ve spoken to is to take small steps. Let’s introduce this slowly, work at a slow pace so we can see what works and what doesn’t work for the city of Roswell,” he said.
The city of Lubbock, Texas, just approved the construction of a materials recovery facility, or sorting facility, he said. He is still waiting for more information on the possibility of Roswell transporting recyclable materials there.
“We have serious challenges ahead, but we are looking for solutions,” Chaparro said.