Recycling taking off

While many businesses struggle in the rough economy, one is in the midst of a boom: recycling.

Republic Services, the area’s trash hauler, will add a $10 million plant to its recycling center in North Las Vegas.

The new plant will take in 9,000 to 12,000 tons of commercial and construction waste a month and employ 10 to 20 people initially.

“As our customers are looking to becoming greener, there’s a greater demand for recycling,” said Bob Coyle, the company’s area president.”

Coyle described a ton of garbage as “evolving.” Whereas decades ago, the entire 2,000 pounds was tossed into a landfill, roughly 800 pounds are reused, he said.

Company executives will formally announce the plans today to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Coyle hopes to break ground in July and open the new 50,000-square-foot plant in February. It eventually will employ 50 workers, he said.

The new plant will take cardboard, plastics, office paper and carpeting, as well as building materials such as concrete, steel rebar, wood, mortar and electrical wiring, he said.

Crews will become busier when construction pulls out of its slump, he added.

Pay will vary, with heavy equipment operators earning $26 an hour and material sorters making $12 to $15 hourly, he said.

Silver State Disposal Service built the complex in the 1990s mainly to recycle residential waste. It now employs 110 workers and processes 6,000 tons of trash monthly.

A second plant is needed to handle the rising volume of trash from businesses, including mega-casinos, Coyle said. The number of commercial accounts climbed to 2,500 from 300 in 2007, he said.

Republic Services pursues business clients with more zeal than in the past, said Tara Pike, who oversees recycling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“They’re going out to these businesses and saying, ‘Look what I can do for you,’ ” Pike said. “I think there’s a sales drive, an education, that didn’t exist years ago.”

A plant dedicated to commercial waste will create more room in the other plant to recycle household trash, Pike said, adding that the extra capacity probably will be needed in the future.

The company’s valley-wide pilot program shows that in some neighborhoods the portion of trash recycled jumped to 36 percent from 2 percent, Pike said.

For the program, customers use 96-gallon containers instead of three-colored boxes. Service also varies to test which is most popular.

In some areas, crews pick up trash twice a week and recycling bins weekly, while in others garbage and recycling bins both are collected once a week.

Recycling probably isn’t making Republic Services tons of money, but it is saving space in landfills, which are costly to open and close, Pike said.

The company, in fact, is about to place a $20 million durable cap on the defunct Sunrise landfill.

Coyle is showing a much better recycling ethic than his predecessors at Silver State Disposal Service did, Pike said.

“I appreciate the shift in attitude and that they’re trying to divert waste from the landfill,” she said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@review or 702-455-4519.

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