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City of El Paso moving forward with ‘Blue Every 2’ initiative for recyclables despite public frustrations

Trash and recycling bins sit out curbside for pickup.
City of El Paso
Trash and recycling bins sit out curbside for pickup.

EL PASO, Texas -- The City of El Paso's Environmental Services Department is moving forward with "Blue Every Two," a new initiative where recyclables will be picked up every other week instead of every week.

The program, which is expected to launch in late March, has brought push-back from some residents who have expressed frustration with the change in the pickup schedule.

But Environmental Services Director Ellen Smyth maintains less than 50 percent of El Pasoans put out their blue recycling bins.

"For the most part, it's not full," Smyth says. "If you have your typical household, most households put (the blue bin) out every other week, every third week, once a month. Some can go six weeks or eight weeks before they put it out."

When asked whether the ESD is educating El Pasoans about recycling, Smyth says there are two initiatives currently being used, "Know What to Throw" and "Recycle Right" have been around for three years.

"The 'Know What to Throw' is exactly that," said Smyth. "And 'Recycle Right' is the next step. Asking please not to put contamination in the blue bin. We target neighborhoods about 1500 homes at a time and we spend two months in every neighborhood."

Smyth says you may have seen a tag attached to your blue bin that tells you if you're recycling correctly or incorrectly.

"The 'Oops' tag may tell you that you can't recycle styrofoam," Smyth says. "We have a team of 8 code officers that are going bin-by-bin every single day looking in the blue bin and then tagging it if we see something in there that doesn't belong."

For those customers who do recycle a lot of items and have a full bin every week or every other week, Smyth says the department is willing to monitor your blue bin usage: "What we're finding with a little more outreach and education, making sure all the cardboard boxes are folded. One gentleman was putting in bags of shredded paper. Those take up a lot of space and we don't want them at all. We don't want anything in a (plastic) bag. So if its going in a bag, it ends up in the landfill."

Smyth says the money saved from switching to picking up recycling every other week will be used towards the creation of a Citizen Collection Station on the eastside. And, she adds, the ESD is exploring other programs.

"Composting, food waste, sustainability, solar, there's a lot of larger cities that are able to consider that we can't consider because of our limited resources," said Smyth. "So if we free up money in this one area, we would like to use it for another area that benefits the entire city."

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is the anchor and producer of ABC-7 Xtra.


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