This is Why Santa Feans Don't Recycle!

Santa Fe Recycling Flowchart

Santa Feans recycle less than 10% of all possible materials that instead go to a landfill. When the national average for recycling is 34% why is the rate in eco-conscious Santa Fe county so low? Because recycling in Santa Fe is a pain in the ass. To illustrate, a friend created this flow chart for visiting relatives to explain what items could be recycled and what couldn't. At first I laughed, because recycling really is this ridiculously complicated in Santa Fe. Then I had a realization.

My mother in law lives in Sonoma County, California and they have Single-Stream Recycling carts. This means that all recyclables go into one cart, all green waste goes into another cart and all trash into a third cart. That's it. No sorting glass from everything else, no selecting only certain types of plastic, no bundling paper and corrugated cardboard. Sonoma County's waste diversion (recycling) rate is over 60%.

Take these two counties with two different recycling systems. The county with a complex recycling system (see the official brochure for how-to recycle guidelines) has a 9+% recycling rate (which is low for New Mexico). The county with single-stream recycling has 60+% recycling rate. I know there are other differences between these two counties, yet there are enough similarities for this comparison.

My next question: Why is recycling in Santa Fe so complicated?

More Info:

NM Environment Dept: Solid Waste Bureau Recycling Information

Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency

Santa Fe City and County Residential Recycling Brochure

Recycling and Diversion Rates for Counties in New Mexico

Single-stream recycling

Sonoma County Waste Management Agency - What Goes in the Cart

Sonoma County Waste Management Agency - Waste Stream Profiles