Recycling Markets Rountable 2001
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
June 2001

Last Friday was a "red-letter" day for South Texas and Bexar County!  Your County, the City of San Antonio, HEB and the Alamo Area Council of Governments sponsored a Conference designed to educate city and county staff as well as the public about the opportunities that await us all when recyclables are properly marketed.  Yes, "there's gold in them there landfill hills" and in the wastestream that creates the need for landfills that have a propensity for being located in the Southern Sector of this County. 

So, if there's gold in the landfill, why is everyone so upset about having one in our community?  Obviously, among other things, the garbage element of the wastestream that is buried there is viewed and perceived as obnoxious.  But it is the recyclable 85% of the wastestream that provides the bulk of the landfill size, including its height.  Proper marketing can prevent the need for the trash mounds or mountains we see in our landfills.

From over twenty-five years of fighting landfills I have learned that you cannot fight what you're feeding!  From the participation rates of the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, it appears that we are indeed doing a pretty good job of feeding our landfills.  According to the Waste News, San Antonio is only participating in recycling at about 26.3%.  Bexar County's recycling rate from its rural to its subdivision areas is far less, perhaps at 5% or so.  Fights like the recent BFI-Tessman Road Landfill expansion request granted by the Texas Natural Resource and Conservation Commission (TNRCC), will be unnecessary if we can just change our long-ingrained habits of disposing of our recyclables into the landfill. 

So how do we conserve resources and tame our landfills?  First, educate the community about recycling because conserving resources is the right thing to do.  Here in Bexar County we have two private recyclers: Vista Fibers on Aniol Road near the Freeman Coliseum and ACCO on Probandt.  The fact that both of these companies are private and BFI owns ACCO indicates that there is profit in properly recycled materials. 

On the private sector front, HEB realizes $4.5 million a year from its recyclables and saves over $2 million annually in landfill costs from its recycling program.  Southwestern Bell sponsors Project Redirectory which recovers a huge amount of its phone books from its customers.  In turn, Southwestern Bell then uses note pads and other products made from recyclables.  This latter practice is called closing the loop of recycling because in using products made from recyclables, we create demand for the recylables in the market.

On the municipal front, the City of San Antonio sells some of its recyclables to ACCO and some to Vista Fibers.  These companies have gained expertise in marketing the recyclables.  They then pay the recycling municipality and divert a significant amount of the bulk from our landfills. 

However, the City and the County could recycle much more and as your Commissioner, I intend to see to it that we do just that, but not without your help.  Every can, bottle, newspaper, sheet of paper and plastic bottle is one less for the landfill.  The County will soon be placing recycling bins in all of its County parks, at the Courthouse and other county facilities and with any luck, facilitate the offering of recycling to residents in the County.   

So, I ask you to please join with me in this "clean-up" campaign to increase participation in recycling.  The materials are too valuable and the land too precious and limited to continue the practice of landfilling, especially in our urban County.  Once you and I have done our part by participating in recycling, the City and County will find the best markets.  You and I and our children's children will then be the ultimate "big winners" in the long run. 

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