County recycling manager on a mission to reduce waste

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Pictured: Gila County Recycling and Landfill Manager stands next to a pile of bicycles, some of which will be part of a yearly bicycle giveaway.

Sharon Winters, the manager of the landfill and recycling part of Gila County Public Works, would like to put the bins back in the places around Globe to accept plastic beverage bottles. The landfill does get clean plastic from business and mine operations, but she said that some people “think that they can save their $7.50 and put garbage in our bins.”

This is doubly bad, she says, since really foul garbage can contaminate a whole bin, wasting the money bulking up the landfill. Winters will keep a bin for clean plastic bottles at the entrance of the landfill. As to what kind of plastic bottles, the landfill wants “plastic bottles you can drink out of.” Nothing that has held soap or cleaners.

In a mini tour, Winters showed the bins for paper and cardboard and the bins for plastic bottles which are emptied into compactors, for paper and plastic. They are crushed into three tons of plastic and seven or eight tons of paper and cardboard for transport to companies in the Valley. In the 11 months of this fiscal year, the landfill will have recycled 202 tons of paper and 11.03 tons of plastic.

Winters pointed out a large pile of metal stuff, old washing machines, pipes, water mains and even office chairs, which is what pays for the Christmas Bike Giveaway. But the large pile of tires at the next shop she said was almost no use at all. The environmental fee paid to tire shops goes to the state that doles it out to the counties, rural counties least.

She expects her mountains, “the carefully constructed and monitored layer cakes of soil and garbage,” to be in service for 30 years or more, although expansion will ultimately cause the landfill offices to have to move as the very ground they are built on is incorporated into the landfill.

Winters pointed out the landfill employees and county jail inmates in the background “picking paper” to keep things from blowing from the flanks of a “mountain” in progress. Pointing at the tallest one she said “this particular mountain over here is full of garbage and closed off. We are going to finish it off and reseed it.” She expects the finished product to look as good as the finished off tailings piles also decorating Globe-Miami.

She showed off the bikes, so far reconstructed from the spaghetti pile of bikes being parted out. Wonderful gifts for even the smallest kids in need. These are created by jail inmates, who are proud to contribute to the happiness of local children.

But what she would like people to know and to teach everyone is that people should use one of the most cheap and convenient landfills in the country rather than forcing the removal of the plastic bottle recycle bins.

Schools and many businesses as well as individuals contribute clean recycle to the county, but as long as the plastic bins are being contaminated Winters is stymied and will have to keep only one plastic recycle bin under her eye at the landfill.

Remember, she says, recycle has to be hand sorted by people.


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