FOCUS ON RECYCLING at Old Foothills Landfill
If your holiday plans include the presence and amazing scent of a live, cut pine tree…please plan to recycle that tree when the decorations have been put away and the needles start to fall. Christmas trees are part of the 2,500 to 5,800 tons of green waste (depending on the year) that flow every year into the Old Foothills Landfill, owned and operated by Las Cruces Utilities (LCU).
The Old Foothills Landfill at 555 S. Sonoma Ranch Blvd. is a closed landfill, and has not accepted trash since 1996, when it officially stopped taking and burying solid waste.
You might say that the entire 150-acre property has been “repurposed”, as of today it is home to green waste processing, drop off of clean-fill (asphalt, concrete, bricks, and dirt), 24-hour recycling drop-off, and recreational activities including a Model Airplane Park and Archery Range.
The Landfill used to be about managing trash; today it has been transformed into a recycling icon.
RECYCLED WASTEWATER IS PART OF THE PROCESS OF TURNING GREEN WASTE TO COMPOSTED MULCH: Instead of fresh drinking water, reclaimed (recycled) wastewater from the nearby East Mesa Water Reclamation Plant is a critical part of the process that transforms plant material into composted mulch.
“We use 200,000 gallons of reclaimed wastewater – not fresh drinking water – every month for two purposes: dust control and wetting down windrows of mulched green waste so it can ‘cook’ in the hot sun and compost,” explains Klaus Kemmer, LCU Solid Waste administrator. The finished mulch is offered free of charge back to residents, businesses, local farmers, and government agencies for soil enhancement and to inhibit weed growth and control dust.
Kemmer does everything possible to increase the amount of green waste coming in, as every year every bit of the available material is taken out of the facility and used by the community.
The latest innovation brings as much green waste as possible into the Old Foothills Landfill. “The green waste program is so popular,” says Kemmer, “we have designated one of our regular grapplers as a Green Grappler and painted it to match its name, solely for the purpose of picking up green waste from neighborhoods all over town and delivering it straight to the Old Foothills Landfill for chipping and mulching.” Green waste includes grass trimmings, tree trimmings, leaves that are raked up, branches that are cut off – organic materials from yards and landscapes that can be mulched into compost.
Alongside stacks of tree branches, LCU urges residents to use clear contractor bags to contain grass clippings and leaves, placed at the curb to assist the Green Grappler driver to clearly see and identify that green waste is inside the bags. Then he knows to pick them up for short trip to the composted mulching operation at the Old Foothills Landfill.
PARTNERING TO CREATE RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES: This past year LCU has been active in partnering with other city agencies to find innovative uses for our closed landfill space. As a result, the Landfill is now home to an archery range and the only Model Airplane Park in the region! Most mornings you can hear the sound of the high-tech model airplanes flying high in the sky while being piloted from the ground.
The Solid Waste Section and Parks and Recreation Department staff worked together to construct the new recreational facilities including shade structures, tables, and benches, alongside the runways and parking lots. Parks and Recreation staff oversees activities at the new sites, working with the Mesilla Valley Model Airplane Club.
OLD STREETS BECOME NEW RUNWAYS: Millings (ground up asphalt) used to construct the runways were available thanks to a coordinated project with the City’s Public Works Department. Recycled old pavement from a nearby street maintenance project on N. Roadrunner Parkway was transformed into two runways measuring 100 x 600 feet each, in addition to parking lots and roads at the Landfill.
CONCRETE SLABS PUT TO A NEW USE: Another recent recycling project at the Old Foothills Landfill involves the repurposing of 8-inch thick concrete slabs from a New Mexico State University (NMSU) demolition project. The slabs now stretch as far as the eye can see for drainage and erosion control at the closed Landfill. “This area used to wash out every time we got a really big rain,” notes Kemmer. “It required constant maintenance. Now, however, the concrete slabs combined with future additional concrete work will do a great job of holding this bank in place and stabilizing this area of the landfill.”
RECYCLABLES AND GLASS RECYCLING: And finally, right next to the entrance of the facility is a 24-hour drop off site for recyclables and glass. This program is another LCU partnership! Glass recycling is managed by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), which oversees recycling throughout Doña Ana County, as well as administers the city’s curbside recycling program. The success of the glass recycling program is entirely dependent on volunteer actions of residents who bring glass bottles and jars to the Old Foothills Landfill or the SCSWA Recycling Facility on the west side of town. Glass is crushed by color and offered back free to the community for pickup at the SCSWA Recycling Yard at 2855 W. Amador Avenue.
The Old Foothills Landfill is closed to solid waste, but open to multiple types of recycling projects day in and day out well into the future.