Five years after an internal audit found that El Paso’s curbside recycling program had “not been successful” over its first decade, city officials said the program now is saving more space in local landfills – a year-and-a-half after a new company took over the operation.
Even after the critical 2018 audit, the city’s recycling program was dogged by different problems in more recent years. The city stopped picking up the blue household recycling bins for three months in late 2020 because of a staffing shortage. And when the city resumed collecting recyclables in early 2021, over a third – 34% – of everything collected from the blue bins was not recyclable and the city had to pay to send it to a landfill.
But so far this year, the so-called contamination rate, or the percentage of items in recycling bins that aren’t recyclable, has fallen to about 24%. That’s just a bit higher than the goal city officials set a couple of years ago to drive recycling contamination in El Paso down to 23% by the end of 2023.