Valley Sanitation operations manager Larry Leyba and office assistant Angelina Gutierrez at the business’s office on Manzanares.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

Everyone creates trash, and Valley Sanitation has been expanding their services throughout Socorro County to provide trash disposal services.

“We’re able to offer a service that everyone can use,” said operations manager Larry Leyba. “It’s literally everyone. Everyone produces trash from the poorest person to the richest person and we really treat them all the same. It doesn’t matter to us, we open and close everybody’s gates and go down everybody’s long driveways.”

Valley Sanitation offers services in Socorro County and surrounding areas, plus roll-off service statewide. Roll-off service is when they drop off a large dumpster for customers to fill, and then drive it away. Frequently, the service is utilized by construction sites. The business has permits to haul sludge, animal carcasses, petroleum-contaminated soil and asbestos.

Curbside trash pickup service can be especially useful for elderly or handicapped people in rural areas where long driveways are common, said Leyba.

“We’re almost like the mailman, except not as exciting. People want to get rid of their stuff. There’s a place to get rid of it. People don’t realize this is actually a convenience service. We’re too busy with our own lives and then trash gets in the way. It’s not high on their priority to get done, and it needs to get done, so that’s what we do.”

In January 2022, an agreement with Valley Sanitation and Socorro County went into effect, making them the official trash pickup service for Socorro County and hiring them to operate the county’s four waste disposal convenience centers, where people can bring bulky items like tires and car batteries.

Innovation is a focus for the business.

“We implemented a system that I don’t think is used, at least in New Mexico. I’m not sure if it’s used anywhere else, but we actually use a POS, point of sales system for our convenience centers. It helps us keep track of how much trash is coming in and how much is going out, so we can better serve our customers. We really put a lot of effort into being the best that we can be in the business that we’re in.”

Socorro County was also awarded a Recycling and Illegal Dumping (RAID) grant to purchase tire recycling equipment.

“Tires are a big deal. They’re bulky. Hard to get rid of. At least in my research, most people think tires are hazardous, and in most of the research I’ve done, it’s actually quite the opposite. They actually could be good for the environment. They’re just ugly and people don’t want to see that. I hate to say it, but even, they’re really not that detrimental to the environment other than they’re ugly, so if we can find a use for the rubber to reuse it and recycle it, that’s what we’re going to do.”

The state of New Mexico approves using rubber mulch from recycled tires in septic systems, so Valley Sanitation is hoping to implement that in Socorro County.

Leyba got into the sanitation business when he opened his own trash disposal business. After four or five years of operating independently, he met Dr. Roland Sanchez, who suggested they work together. They both were focused on offering a reliable sanitation service in the area. Sanchez opened Valley Sanitation, and Leyba came to work for him as operations manager.

“My job is to remind everyone, keep them always at their best, and then I also try to bring in other business and I work with other businesses and government agencies to see what we can do to provide different service or a better service or a better way. We don’t ever come in like we know everything. We just come in to work with everybody.”

With the recent labor shortages, sometimes the business does struggle with finding qualified employees, but Leyba said he appreciates that they’re able to offer employees training. Drivers get help acquiring their CDLs, while Valley Sanitation also pays for its office workers who are not bilingual to learn Spanish.

Inflation has hit the company, just like everyone else. The fluctuating fuel costs mean the business’s fuel surcharge also fluctuates monthly.

“There’s some months our fuel surcharge goes up and there’s other months it comes ways down, so we try to be fair with it. It doesn’t always just keep going up. We try to stay with the CPI index.”

The biggest customer misconception Leyba sees is that people do not realize how expensive a recycling pickup service is compared to trash pickup. Customers frequently ask about a curbside recycling pickup, but Valley Sanitation has not been able to offer it yet. A recycling pickup service would be almost double the cost for the business to run from trash pickup. It would also require more employees and trucks.

“But it’s not anything that we write off. We’re just trying to figure out a way to bring the costs down to get it to balance out.”

Valley Sanitation will continue to grow the business this summer by adding a portable toilet service.