Children Learn How to Recycle at Highlands’ Recycling Center

Kindergarten children at recycling center

Courtesy photo
Kindergarten children from the Las Vegas City Schools Early Childhood Center summer program gather around Carmen Lopez, Highlands University’s recycling coordinator, to learn about materials that can be recycled.

Las Vegas, New Mexico – A new generation of young recyclers is being born, thanks to the Highlands University Recycling Center.

Thirty-five children who will begin kindergarten in August at the Early Childhood Center in Las Vegas, New Mexico, visited the university’s Recycling Center July 15 to get hands-on experience in recognizing and sorting recyclables.

“I am very impressed with how motivated these local children are to recycle,” said Carmen Lopez, recycling coordinator at Highlands. “If we can teach little children about recycling early, they will get into a lifelong habit of recycling. Of course the overall goal is to keep as much recyclables as possible out of landfills.”

Teresa Salas is a kindergarten teacher at the Early Childhood Center and one of three teachers who run the K–3 Plus Summer Program for Las Vegas City Schools.

“Carmen provided the children with a lot of valuable recycling information and shared her enthusiasm for recycling, which is contagious,” Salas said. “She really engaged the students in activities like sorting plastics and paper that had a big impact on them. Later when we went to a field trip to the zoo, they were looking for all the places to recycle.”

Salas said the workshop at the Recycling Center reinforced what the Early Childhood Center is trying to accomplish with its recycling program.

“Our classrooms are set up to recycle. Carmen’s workshop was a great jump-start to our year for recycling,” Salas said.

Lopez has taught several educational workshops for local elementary schools and is planning more for the 2016-2017 year.

In September 2015, Lopez surveyed people who use the Highlands Recycling Center to gauge community usage.

“We have 45 to 50 customers using the recycling center each day ranging in age from young college students to the elderly,” Lopez said. “They come from Las Vegas as well San Miguel County and Mora County. People are beyond happy that Highlands is providing this free service to the community.”

Lopez said recyclers are spreading the word with friends and family about the university’s center, with the usage increasing.

Highlands also has an on-campus recycling program with large three-bin recycling containers for paper, plastic and aluminum in 35 university buildings.

The Highlands Recycling Center is at 9th and Raynolds adjacent to the Gallinas River Walk. It is west of the university’s Pete Wilson Complex and behind the tennis court parking lot. It is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

The center has always accepted aluminum, mixed paper, cardboard, tin and plastics 1, like water and soft drink bottles, and plastics 2, like milk jugs. Check the recycling symbol on the bottom of plastic containers.

Since Lopez started her recycling position in November 2013, she added new materials to the list of what can be recycled at the center including VCRs, microwave ovens, car batteries, stainless steel, like water fountains, and copper wires.

The recycling center cannot accept items like televisions, mattresses, tires, Styrofoam, shredded paper, motor oil and paint because it can’t recycle them. Biohazards like diabetic needles also aren’t allowed.

Lopez asked that people please not dump their recyclables at the center’s fence after hours.

“This creates a mess, attracting animals that scatter the recyclables,” Lopez said.

There are security cameras at the recycling center. People who drop items off after hours may be issued a citation for littering.

Lopez is the only fulltime university employing staffing the Recycling Center. One part-time employee and several Highlands work-study students round out the crew.

The phone number for the center is 505-426-7788.