Solid waste deal may jump-start recycling center
The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is eyeing a partnership with a Chicago-based company that could bring the Slack Street recycling center back online.
At a Tuesday meeting, board members voted to sign a nonbinding letter of intent indicating interest in partnering with West Virginia Recycling Services.
If the deal is finalized, the company would run the recycling center, said George Hunyadi, a partner with the company.
"We're really excited about this," board chairwoman Kay Summers said about the possible deal. "If this works, it will be huge for all of us."
The company would lease the recycling center from the Solid Waste Authority for a fee, board member Rod Watkins said. That fee would come from the money the company makes by selling recyclables, he said.
The fee would be levied on every ton of recyclables the company processes, Watkins said. The fee has not yet been determined.
The recycling center was closed in March when structural issues and combustible dust was found in the over-100-year-old building. Efforts to relocate to a new building have so far been unsuccessful.
West Virginia Recycling Services, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Draw Enterprises, would renovate the current facility if the deal is finalized, Hunyadi said.
Draw Enterprises is about 37 years old and operates recycling centers in at least 10 different locations nationwide, he said. It handles the recycling for city agencies in Pittsburgh.
If a restart is successful, the company would accept glass bottles, plastics, paper, cardboard and aluminum. The center would also continue to accept electronics like computer monitors and television sets.
Under the proposed agreement, the company would be responsible for paying all business and occupation taxes to Charleston. However, the property itself would remain tax-exempt because the Solid Waste Authority would remain the owner.
The Solid Waste Authority would use fee revenues to promote recycling, which could increase the amount of goods processed, Watkins said.
Tying the fee to the number of tons recycled would give the Solid Waste Authority the incentive to step up educational efforts and increase the amount of recycling brought in.
The Solid Waste Authority is also looking at setting up rural drop-off stations, Watkins said. The company would continue to operate the public drop-off at Slack Street.
The company would need to recycle about 800 tons of material per month to be profitable, Hunyadi said. The authority currently recycles about 100 tons per month.
However, Hunyadi believes he can significantly increase the amount of tonnage by approaching local businesses and other governmental entities.
He would also approach the Kanawha County Board of Education to obtain recyclables from the schools and offices, he said. Local colleges and universities could also be tapped.
Fewer entities brought their recyclables to the Slack Street center after it was closed because the authority did not have the means to process the material, Watkins said. For example, Charleston does not bring its recyclables now, nor does South Charleston.
The recycling center also lost Charleston Area Medical Center's recyclables as well as the material from the state Capitol Complex, Hunyadi said.
The recycling center peaked at about 700 tons of recyclables a month when it was operating the center, Watkins said. However, he also believes the company could obtain more recyclable material by marketing the service.
"We weren't running an educational program or promoting ourselves very well," he said.
When asked if he thought this was the best deal for the Solid Waste Authority, Watkins answered, "Absolutely."
The company would accept unsorted materials from cities and sort them on-site, Hunyadi said.
West Virginia Recycling Services would not only lease the building, but it would also purchase any usable equipment from the authority, Hunyadi said.
Hunyadi estimated that the company would have to make an initial investment of $250,000 to $300,000 to make the building ready for operations. He was unsure how long it would take to begin operations.
However, crews would begin work on the building as soon as possible, he said.
"I would like to have work crews down here the day after they (Solid Waste Authority) sign the agreement," he said.
Hunyadi also said he would like to use local construction crews to renovate the structure.
The company would be responsible for staffing the facility. About six employees would be needed to run the operation initially, Hunyadi said.
The company filed paperwork to be recognized as a limited liability corporation with the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday just before the Solid Waste Authority meeting, Hunyadi said.
The company will also look at whether they have to obtain authorization from the West Virginia Public Service Commission to operate a waste hauling business in the state, he said.
The PSC regulates all West Virginia waste haulers.
Solid Waste Authority board member Greg Sayre recused himself from all discussions about the agreement to avoid any chances of a conflict of interest, he said.
Sayre is a registered lobbyist who represents West Virginia Cashin Recyclables, a for-profit recycler based in Nitro. He is also the executive director of the Association of Waste Haulers and Recyclers.
Hunyadi said he had not met Sayre before he began discussing the possible deal with the Solid Waste Authority. His company is not affiliated with any of the organizations represented by Sayre, he said.
Board members will discuss the proposal again at the Nov. 19 meeting. A special meeting could be called earlier than that, Summers said.