For Marfa recycling, problems and cardboard are piling up

MARFA — As the international recycling market has slowed, Marfa’s recycling sales have ground to a near halt. Companies who previously purchased and transported Marfa’s recycling out of the area are no longer buying. With the city placing cardboard recycling dumpsters on hiatus, illegal dumping has risen in its place.

At The Get Go, Code Enforcement Officer Christina Pryor describes what “has rapidly become an illegal dumping situation.” Tires have been illicitly deposited in the remaining dumpster and cardboard has repeatedly been left on the ground where the recycling dumpster once stood.

Pryor was initially concerned that citizens were not using their properly assigned dumpster and warned against it on social media. In speaking with Utility Clerk Lori Flores and City Manager John Washburn, Pryor later learned dumpsters are not assigned.

Irma Salgado is a city council member and employee at The Get Go. “We need to settle this recycling issue once and for all. Whether we’re picking it up or people are taking it over there, it’s gotta be taken care of,” she said.

Pryor hasn’t heard illegal dumping complaints from other former cardboard recycling dumpster sites like Stripes and Porters, though Stripes has some dumpsters that lock and can only be accessed by the business.

Beyond Marfa residents who pay for dumpster use and can deposit their trash in Republic Services dumpsters around town, there is an issue of ranchers and others from outside the area utilizing trash services without paying for them. Pryor says county residents and people outside city limits take advantage of Marfa dumpsters.

“I don’t think we need to be the dumpster police,” Marfa City Attorney Teresa Todd warned when the subject came up at Tuesday’s council meeting. Monitoring dumpsters at all hours can be tricky, and it is difficult to catch and verify that someone is using a dumpster illegally.

“However, when there is trash being placed next to and not inside of dumpsters, or bulky waste left by dumpsters or anywhere that is not an approved solid waste site, or waste that is being disposed of for commercial purposes, then that is where we get into illegal dumping, which is a violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code 365.012 and a misdemeanor offense,” Pryor said.

Salgado wants to raise awareness about illegal dumping and hopes to improve the issue outside The Get Go. The city installed a sign where the cardboard recycling dumpsters used to be and added a camera to see how the area is being used.

Residents can report dumping issues if they see something, Pryor said, “but it’s kind of futile, because I cannot really act on it, unless they bring proof,” like photos or videos, or if the trash has identifiable features.

Washburn said at the Tuesday meeting he was aware of the issue and is “trying to figure out what’s an appropriate solution that actually has some teeth, but also will endure.”