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Advocate Lake Highlands (October 2009) : Page 42

tRashto treasure Now you know what happens to all those dirty diapers and half-eaten sandwiches (a.k.a. the icky trash) and bulk trash. but what about the so-called clean trash — the stuff that goes in the blue recycling bins? Here’s how it works: the city’s sanitation services depart- ment collects recyclables from the single-family and community recy- cling bins. those recyclables (30,000 tons in 2008) are shipped to the city’s recycling processor — Greenstar at Northwest Highway and Shiloh in Garland — which separates the mate- rials into marketable packages, and sells the materials to buyers (except for glass and non-recyclable contami- nants). the city’s share of the 2008 revenue that GreenStar earned from those sales was $2.2 million. Any recycled glass is delivered to the Mccommas bluff landfill — not for disposal but for beneficial re- use: the landfill is able to crush the glass and use it as a gravel substitute for below-ground drainage features. (“that reduces the amount of clean gravel we’d otherwise need to pur- chase for those drainage features,” Nix says.) Any contaminants, roughly 10 percent of what Dallasites place in recycle bins (Nix says this is a low number), is sent to the Mccommas bluff landfill for disposal. Recyclables: a city moneymakeR (soRt-of) Yes, the city does make money on the old magazines, used water bot- tles and empty aluminum cans that Dallas residents toss into blue bins. Our recycling efforts aren’t enough, however, to cover the cost of what the city spends to pick up recyclables — Visit adVocatemag.com and click on “blog” to find out more about the city’s recycling efforts and to find a recyclables collection calendar. 42 OctOber 2009 advocatemag.com/lake-highlands in 2008, the funds generated by recy- clables recouped roughly 40 percent of the cost. On top of that, the city’s depart- ment of sanitation services never knows how much money recyclables will generate because the cash paid for this kind of trash — formally known as the “recycling commodity market” — fluctuates constantly, and oscillates for some items more than others. For example, department director Mary Nix says, “old newspa- per has seen a less drastic variance than old metal cans (steel and metal mixes — not aluminum).” With the economy in a recession over the past year, the market for recyclables “dropped quite starkly,” Nix says, but began leveling off more recently. the city hopes the market improves, but Nix is quick to empha- size that, ultimately, Dallas’ recycling efforts are not about money. “the city has committed to a recy- cling program based largely on its positive impact on our environment,” Nix says. “the revenue-share is a way to help offset the cost of the service, but is not its primary driver. So, we’ll continue to promote the recycling.” n It’s amazing what people throw away … Ron Smith has seen a lot in his 10 years of working with landfills, including his two years here at McCommas Bluff. Like the time one of his crews found a dead body. “We did have a deceased gentleman out here about a year and a half ago, and we called the police right away,” he says. “We’ve also had to call the police when we’ve found meth labs. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.” Then there was the time he unearthed a box with three Rolex watches and four large diamond rings. “It turned out a family had been cleaning out their home and acciden- tally threw the box away, but we were able to return it to them,” he says. “And another time Sears dropped off five refrigera- tors, which we now use in our offices. That’s what they call ‘salvaging’ — it’s a legal term.”

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