Since Silver City terminated its single-stream recycling program July 1, people have been left with no option but to throw nearly all their waste into the garbage, which is then buried in the Grant County landfill. A group of Silver City residents are taking recycling into their own hands, developing plans to repurpose materials like plastics, paper and glass at a local level. The initiatives are bound together by local makerspace The Future Forge, where most of the initial efforts will take place.

Officials have established collection points for clean cardboard and aluminum cans, but glass recycling was eliminated in Silver City years ago, and the new collection system doesn’t do anything with the world’s highest-profile waste problem: plastic.

Chris Lemme is a local systems engineer with a lot of ideas and the intellectual organization to execute them. He recently wrapped up a GoFundMe campaign, raising $2,000 for a plastic extrusion machine as part of “a proof-of-concept process that uses crushed glass and plastic bottles to create construction materials such as paving bricks.”

Lemme is planning to partner with a separate group —  working out of The Future Forge — that is developing a small-scale glass crusher. The crusher would allow bottles currently being thrown away to be repurposed into a variety of products, including Lemme’s bricks.

Nick Prince, one of the founders of The Future Forge, said downtown restaurant owner Kelsey Patterson is developing a machine that will be used to crush the glass for Lemme’s bricks — and to make into other products.  “She has been working with gravel, and they are going to work on R&Ding a glass crusher to produce glass beads and sand,” he said. “They’re repurposing high-torque, low-spin concrete mixers.”

Prince’s company, Binary Circuits, is helping “with technical assistance” to the projects, and The Future Forge hopes to soon see the benefit of local plastic recycling. Under the supervision of Kaya Thompson, the makerspace is now home to equipment that promises the ability to produce at least one product. “We have a shredder and two extruders; once it gets shredded, it gets extruded into bricks or into filament for a 3-D printer,” for example, Prince said. 

Lemme hopes that his small-scale demonstration project — “I’m toying with the name Best Brixx,” he said — will attract investors and inspire participation in yet another project that would be key to any ramp-up in production of Best Brixx: plastic waste collection. 

Silver City previously collected its recyclables — including plastic — curbside, baled them and sent them off to a Friedman Recycling facility in El Paso. Lemme envisions this aspect being overseen by a nonprofit organization, but with all this in the planning stages, there is still much to be worked out. 

“Essentially, we’re trying to create a demand for recycled products locally, instead of sending them to El Paso and then on to China — which isn’t viable anymore, of course,” Lemme said. “A lot of us have been thinking about it; I think this is happening across the country as municipalities bow out — private enterprises are stepping up to ask what can we do to address this problem. Processing locally makes sense. You don’t have to expend a lot of fossil fuels.” 

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