APRIL 2012

$168 million buried in New Mexico landfills

In 2010, New Mexicans buried $168 million worth of valuable material in landfills instead of recycling it. A new report released by the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) details the cost to send materials to the landfill, as well as the missed value of materials that could have been diverted for recycling.

The study found that, based on 29 reporting landfills in the state, the average cost to dispose of solid waste materials is $31.29 per ton. Using that average rate, it is estimated New Mexicans spent $51 million to bury $168 million worth of recyclable material.

New Mexicans recycled 200,000 tons in 2010, the year of the report’s analysis, with an estimated market value of $25 million.

The report was conducted as part of NMRC’s multi-tiered Rural Recycling Development project funded by a grant from the Department of Energy. The information sheds light on the economics of solid waste in the state and recommends solutions to increase diversion. The primary recommendation offered to increase diversion is for communities to use rate incentives, such as setting lower rates for recyclable materials at landfills and to institute a solid waste rate structure known as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT). More than 7,000 communities around the nation use PAYT, which works much like utility or water billing. A household or citizen pays for how much they use or in this case, how much they throw away.

On average, when a community adopts the PAYT model, they dispose of 45 percent less solid waste. This is due to the increased amount of materials recycled and also to increased source reduction, a phrase used to describe less waste generated in the first place. General benefits of PAYT include increased material diversion, revenues from recycled material sales, jobs created in the recycling processing and re-manufacture stream, and increased landfill life.

Silver City is currently the only community with a PAYT program in New Mexico. It is NMRC’s goal to see several more communities pilot the program in the next year with more to follow in future years.