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Future of city's recycling program in question

FILE PHOTO: Recycle bin
FILE PHOTO: Recycle bin
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As the city's curbside recycling pickup remains suspended due to COVID-19 staffing issues, city council members are looking to determine if El Paso's recycling program is worth it, both from an economic and environmental standpoint.

The city says they spend around $5 million a year on all the components involved in the recycling program.

In the last 14 years of recycling, the city has saved one year's worth of space at the landfill or 400,000 tons.

"We produce an enormous amount of trash. and so when you recycle 20 or 30,000 tons. it is a lot,” Ellen Smyth, the city’s environmental services director, said.

About 70 percent of materials El Pasoans attempt to recycle are used while the other 30 percent goes to the landfill.

"It's a complex industry. It's a full blown industry,” she said. “It's not a simple conversation, like maybe it was when it first started 50 years ago."

Smyth said she believes recycling is a quality of life service.

"You usually don't do an economic analysis of quality of life," she said of questions regarding the economic benefit of the program.

At a virtual town hall Tuesday, El Pasoans asked questions regarding the city's recycling program involve cost and environmental impact.

Smyth believes recycling isn't something you can easily get rid of.

“That really is the message,” she said. “It really is a quality of life, it'd be the same as trying to eliminate museums and libraries.”

The city’s contract with the recycling company extends until 2030, but Smyth said it is always possible to get lawyers involved.

However, ending the contract earlier would likely also come at a cost.


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