New Equipment Moves Recycling Center Forward

NMHU Recycling Center

Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
New Mexico Highlands University recycling coordinator Abie Ulibarri loads cardboard into a new baler the university purchased that is saving the university money, producing revenue, and increasing efficiency and production.

Las Vegas, NM —  New equipment at the New Mexico Highlands University Recycling Center is saving the university money, generating revenue, and increasing efficiency and production.

In its first weeks of use in June, the new baler helped the university process 11 tons of revenue-generating recyclable materials from the campus, community and local businesses.

With the baler, the university no longer pays for haulers to transport recyclables to recycling centers. Instead, haulers pick up the compacted, baled materials at the center and pay premium prices.

While prices fluctuate, the current rate per ton for baled cardboard is $105, plastics bring $150 — $170, newspapers bring $70, and aluminum is the most lucrative at $1,300 per ton.

Since the university opened the recycling center in November 2010, it has received heavy use and demand continues to grow.

“We would love for more businesses to bring us their recycling,” said Jorden Grimm, the university’s capital projects operation manager. “The more products we receive, the more revenue we can generate to help offset operational costs so we can continue to offer the community this recycling service.”

Already, local businesses like Price’s Home Furnishings, Walgreens, Highlands Wrecker, Family Dollar, and the Las Vegas Optic are using the recycling center.

“We’ve recycled for a long time for environmental reasons,” said Don Price, one of the owners of Price’s Home Furnishings. “It’s very fast and convenient for us to bring our cardboard to Highlands to recycle. We’re definitely glad the university provides this service and give kudos to Jorden Grimm and his staff.”

Las Vegas native Abie Ulibarri is the university’s recycling coordinator, and Frank Branch is the custodial and recycling manager.

Ulibarri said after purchasing the baler, the university is now averaging approximately six bales of recycled materials per week, with each bale weighing about a 1,000 pounds — half a ton. The goal is to increase the volume to 10 bales per week, in part to pay for expanding the existing concrete slab at the center and purchasing another compact tractor for moving bales.

“This recycling work is very rewarding, because we’re stopping materials from going into landfills and causing environmental damage,” Ulibarri said. “We’re seeing more and more people using the recycling center, ranging from about 80 to 100 recyclers per week day. I’m also picking up much higher volume at all the recycling bins located around campus.”

The university’s campus recycling program is reducing its waste stream, with campus dumpster use decreasing from 17 to seven.

“It’s exciting to see the campus and community getting so involved in recycling,” Branch said. “Imagine how much we would help the Earth if even more people recycled.

This summer, four Highlands University work-study students and two youth from the City of Las Vegas Summer Youth Program are lending a hand to help recycling operations run smoothly.

Soon the university’s recycling center will increase its capacity by running a second baler, thanks to a donation from Bio Propel, a leading recycling company.

The recycling center is at 9th and Raynolds, west of the university’s Wilson Complex and behind the tennis courts parking lot. It is open Monday — Friday from 8 a.m. — 3:30 p.m.  

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

The center cannot accept items like stoves, refrigerators, mattresses, tires, electronics, batteries, motor oil or paint because the university can’t recycle them.

People with recycling questions may call Ulibarri at 505-429-0338. Those interested in volunteering or donating to the university’s recycling program may contact Grimm at recycle@nmhu.eduor 505.454.3491.