No more for Blackmore
RIFLE – After 20 years of handling scrap metals, glass, cardboard and paper, Elmer Blackmore is closing Garfield County’s only privately run recycling yard.
“People are hollering at me, `What are we going to do with this stuff?'” he said.
But the soft-spoken, warm-hearted 70-year-old insists that it’s time to retire.
After trying unsuccessfully for the past two years to sell the business, Blackmore said the only way to retire is to shut the place down.
“About a month ago, we said, `We’ve got to get out of here.’ We bought a lot in Hilltop Estates, and we’re going to build us a house,” he said.
Blackmore and his wife, Beverly, who retired last year after working 32 years as a classroom aide and reading specialist in the Rifle schools, have lived for years in a modest frame house on one side of the scrap yard.
A Rifle man is seeking to buy Blackmore’s Metals Mart and Recycling, but the deal isn’t certain. So for now, Blackmore is preparing to close the business and clear the land of accumulated recyclables.
That means Rifle area residents will have to drive much farther to get rid of recyclable wastes. Some may just send the stuff to the dump.
“I feel in the 20 years I’ve been here that the stuff I’ve shipped off here would probably fill one of those cells at the landfill,” Blackmore said. “Everything we do here is recycling.”
At least ten people a day drive out to his scrap yard west of Rifle to unload truckloads of cardboard, aluminum cans, glass bottles, office paper, scrap metal.
And dozens show up every Saturday in the Rifle City Market parking lot to use his recycling drop-off service, which has been operating for the past nine years.
The scrap yard will officially close this Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, will be the last day for collections at the City Market drop-off.
The accumulated remains are spread across the property. “It’s not junk, it’s merchandise,” he said.
Blackmore has hired a firm to haul off the remaining 600 tons of scrap iron, steel and aluminum, and his crew will process and bale the remaining glass, newspapers, office paper, cardboard and other items.
“We do over 50 different products,” Blackmore said.
Because the work is so complex, Blackmore said he’s been lucky to have a steady crew. Dave Zimmerman is his right-hand man, and Jim McKeon, Alejandro Romero and Bill Harbottle carry out their tasks with little supervision.
“You can’t hire a guy off the street to do this. These guys know how to buy metals and sell steel,” Blackmore said.
Most of the materials Blackmore takes are processed by his crew, often using equipment Blackmore invented, and shipped out by the semi-load to mills.
A long baler under a shed-roof flattens cans, presses them together into 1,600-pound blocks and lashes them together with steel straps.
A glass crusher pulverizes bottles and jars into crumbs for efficient packing. For 20 years, Blackmore has sold crushed glass to the Coors bottling plant in Golden.
Another baler compacts cardboard, newspapers and office paper into 1,100-pound blocks. The paper goes to the Abitibi mill in Snowflake, Ariz. – the same mill that produces the newsprint used by the Post Independent.
“Some of this stuff, I think, comes back to me,” he said.
Blackmore has also made a good business in selling milled steel in various sizes and shapes. “With all the gas drilling in the area, I sell a lot of steel to welders,” he said.
The steel, too, “makes a 360-degree turn” in leaving his yard as scrap and coming back milled.
He said buyers will be welcome to purchase the remaining supplies of new steel this summer.
The scrap yard is also a favorite haunt for sculptors, including Bill Morrow, of Rifle, and Mark Cesark, of Carbondale.
“I started coming here after JY Ranch shut down,” Cesark said, referring to Alan Morris’ Cattle Creek junk and scrap yard. Cesark was prowling for panels of weathered steel, which he uses to make large colored and textured wall art.
“It’s now getting harder and harder to find this stuff,” he said, disappointed that Blackmore’s will be closing, too. “It’s a shame, because there are not many places for people to dump scrap metal.”
Do-it-yourselfers also find good deals on materials at the scrap yard.
“As we sort the scrap iron, we save out the angle iron, channel iron and pipe, anything that’s any good,” Blackmore said. “People come up and buy that.
“In fact, I’m getting more flack about that than anything else,” he said
Blackmore said the scrap metal part of the business is the most profitable. He offers the other recycling more as a community service, including the Saturday drop-off.
“You can always make money with metals. But I don’t know that I ever made money in paper, and there have been times I lost a lot,” he said.
Some materials subsidize others, but the point is to keep waste circulating to mills and back into new products.
“Everything we handle is made into a new product,” Blackmore said, “every bit of it.”
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