Texas consists of many rural communities and sparsely populated counties. Because of their size and remote locations, many of these entities are unable to establish cost-effective recycling programs. They are constrained by small tax bases, limited infrastructure for collection of recyclable materials, long distances to processors and/or end markets and very limited start-up funds if any. There is little financial incentive to implement recycling and to reduce waste going to landfills. Recycling can be difficult for anyone, especially with the current recycling markets, and individualized assistance is often needed.
Look no further than Keep Texas Recycling (KTR), formerly known as CTRA! For over 25 years, Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance (CTRA) has worked to preserve the environment by promoting recycling through cooperative marketing, reuse of recyclable materials, coordination of recycling efforts, and promotion of public education. Members of the recycling cooperative serve more than 500 entities, give recycling access to 500,000+ Texas citizens and covers a service area of over 43,000 miles. However, we knew we could do more and reach more Texans through a more formal relationship with Keep Texas Beautiful. Both organizations work hard to improve the communities in which they are present, and for years we've worked together on a variety of projects and initiatives. So after years of "dating", in January 2020 we made it official, got married and CTRA took the Keep Texas Recycling name.
KTR cooperative currently consists of a variety of different entities including municipalities, counties and military bases. The strength of the cooperative provides a variety of opportunities that might not be available if the community was on their own. For members, KTR serves as their liaison between the public and private sector by negotiating contracts with haulers and end markets at competitive prices. The collection, transport, and sale of recyclables are coordinated through KTR and our contractors. KTR helps community recycling programs to effectively increase the amount and quality of collected recycled materials. The focus on quality impacts the processor and the mill's willingness to negotiate contracts with KTR and its members. KTR's focus is on rural and underserved communities, however, we also provide technical assistance and education to ALL communities or groups interested in recycling. Educational programs include public workshops, training of community recycling staff and volunteers, as well as public awareness campaigns.
KTR has been a leader in rural recycling and has been invited to advise and work with groups in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and even Alberta, Canada! One of the advantages of working through the KTR cooperative is the networking and ability to learn from communities that have been involved with the organization from the beginning. We often connect a "rookie" with a "pro" when a community first begins the process of starting a recycling program so they have the ability to ask questions and learn from someone that has a successful program and can advise them on best practices. While there is nothing particularly innovative or cutting edge about rural drop-off programs, the longevity and progress these programs make is extremely noteworthy.
KTR's impact on recycling efforts and recycling access in Texas has been substantial. KTR measures success by the geographic area covered, number of participants, number of tons recycled, recycling rates, revenue generated and environmental impacts. Since 1994, CTRA's members recycled 146,500 tons (293,000,000 lbs.) of material.This has generated over $10.5 million in revenue for these communities as well as, and sometimes, more importantly, saved over 448,000 cu. yards of landfill space and $5,127,500 in landfill fees!
They say it "takes a village" and in the case of rural recycling, more often than not, we find that the more support a community has, the more successful it will be. KTR hopes to be that support for these communities and many more, for years to come.
Blog Post Written By Rachel Hering, Director of Keep Texas Recycling.