Meet Kenny Keith: Gila County Landfill & Recycling Manager

Meet Kenny Keith: Gila CountyKennyKeithRecyclingFlyer600wide
Landfill & Recycling Manager
Over the past decade nearly 10,000 tons of paper have been diverted from Gila County landfills and hauled to a Scottsdale paper recycling plant. Gila County’s recycling effort has added one month per year to the life of Buckhead Mesa landfill north of Payson, and Russell Gulch Landfill in Globe - by reducing the annual volume of garbage hauled there. 
Sadly, plummeting prices and other factors have collapsed the recycling industry for commodities such as paper, aluminum, plastic and others exported to China. Compounding the problem: recycling is in decline locally, too. Garbage and nonrecyclables discarded in the big blue bins render entire loads worthless, consigning their contents to local landfills, to the dismay of local residents who made efforts to recycle. 
Off-site containers around town and convenient to the public have been removed – but bins remain at the landfill where they can be monitored. 
Will recycling rebound in Gila County during 2020? 
Kenny Keith hopes so – and he’s not just a dedicated household recycler, he was hired in 2019 to run the show as Gila County’s new Recycling & Landfill Manager. 
“This will definitely be a new challenge -- I recycle my own paper, aluminum cans - everything I can.  But the worldwide market has taken a hit: buyers in China stopped accepting plastic this past year, and sharply raised their contamination levels on cardboard – refusing loads of mixed paper that included cardboard – which marks a change from what’s been acceptable over the past decade. I am optimistic that these problems could be resolved within a year; for the time being, Gila County continues to recycle plastic and paper, in separate bins that are clearly marked explaining acceptable items.”
“Gila County has had to withdraw our bins to places where they can be monitored to prevent careless people from contaminating the bins with trash or nonrecyclable items like garden hoses and kids’ swimming pools. For now, roll-off bins are located at each landfill, Buckhead Mesa for Rim Country residents and Russell Gulch in Globe-Miami, and we hope to designate off-site locations again starting in the fall or winter.”
Extensive Experience
Keith brings a thorough resume and extensive experience in landfill management to his job at Gila County, taking the reins following retirement of longtime (and award-winning) landfill leader Sharon Winters, who retired this past Spring. From 1987-2003 Keith worked his way up in the Town of Gilbert’s Solid Waste collections and Recycling Program for commercial and residential - starting as an equipment operator, then promoted to Supervisor over residential recycling, recycling outreach, and commercial collections. He earned numerous certifications from the Solid Waste Association of North America, and was hired in 2003 as the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Environmental and Safety Director.  
“This is where I got involved with landfills and management of landfill operations.  I really enjoyed learning the fundamentals of modern landfills, including operations, site design, regulations, health and safety, cost controls and other issues pertinent to planning, operating, and closing landfills. ... learning how to Improve efficiency and control cost.  I had always just delivered refuse and watched the trash get buried. Here I gained a better appreciation of what a landfill is all about.”
Keith then spent more than a decade in academia, working from 2006-2019 at Northland Pioneer College as the Energy and Industrial Technician Program department chair, and faculty member. “That was a big turn,  from solid waste and environmental issues, but another challenge and fulfilling career choice. As adjunct faculty teaching evening business courses to overseeing 200 students  pursuing their desires to work at the local power plants, I’m proud to have been part of a faculty team that helped 256 students progress into good paying jobs in the power energy field.” 
Keith spends his weekdays here in Globe, heading back home to Pinetop-Lakeside for weekends with his wife (of nearly 39 years!) Crushawn, their two adults children, and seven grandkids ranging in age from 5 months to a 13 year-old. While there he enjoys taking the grandkids out exploring the National Forest via Polaris Ranger, 
golfing, and landscaping around their home. 
“One of my top goals this year is to educate county residents that a managed-properly landfill is just that, not a garbage dump as many people commonly perceived. This coming year brings an opportunity to get creative with our recycling program to meet the needs and desires of local residents – while protecting our environment and continuing the county’s successful effort to extend the life of our landfills.”
Want to get involved with local recycling, helping expand recycling options or educating local residents so we ‘recycle clean?’ Call Kenny Keith, Recycling & Landfill Manager, at   928-402-8531
Or email