Councilman suggests limit for curbside recycling
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - An experienced member of Charleston's Environment and Recycling Committee has suggested that the city temporarily stop recycling four out of the seven items it has been accepting.
But Mayor Danny Jones will not support eliminating anything from the city's recycling stream.
Councilman Cubert Smith, an independent from the city's East End, has extensive experience with recycling.
He was a member of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority for several years, and he also sits on the city's Environment and Recycling Committee. Smith pointed out that Charleston currently recycles seven items when it is only mandated by state law to recycle three.
The city has also been forced to haul its recycling, such as aluminum cans and plastic bottles, to Beckley ever since the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority was forced to close its doors in March due to structural issues with the building and the fact that combustible dust was found in the over 100-year-old structure.
The city pays about $500 a week to haul recyclables to Beckley, said Kasey Russell, an at large councilwoman who also sits on the recycling committee. That equals about $25,000 a year, she said.
"I'm not against recycling, I've been involved in it for 20 years in the city," Smith said. "But when the people ask me to represent them, my responsibility is to examine everything that is a reason for them (residents) to be concerned."
The state mandates any city with a population of 10,000 people or more offer curbside recycling. The cities must recycle three items. However, the city can pick which items to recycle.
Currently, Charleston refuse workers pick up newspapers, magazines, aluminum and steel cans, plastics, grass clippings and leaves, and appliances, Smith said. He would like to eliminate four of these items from the list in order to cut down on city expenses.
However, Jones said he would never support such a move.
"I'm just one vote on council, but I would never support doing that," Jones said.
Many people in Charleston are avid recyclers and these individuals are passing on the importance of recycling to their children, Jones said. Eliminating items from the recycling stream would discourage people from recycling at all, he said.
"We're not going to stop recycling," he said.
Smith pointed out that the recycling program could be expanded to include the items eliminated from the list if a public/private partnership is finalized between the Solid Waste Authority and West Virginia Recycling Services.
West Virginia Recycling Services is a private for-profit company that could take over recycling at the Slack Street center. The company would renovate the structure and open it to the public and cities.
Officials with the Solid Waste Authority are currently reviewing the proposal.
However, Jones believes it would be difficult to get people in the habit of recycling items if the city stops taking them, even on a temporary basis.
The city needs to continue recycling all of the items currently accepted until a deal is finalized between the company and the county Solid Waste Authority.
Smith pointed to the fact that the city recycles newspapers and other paper goods as a specific example. Paper biodegrades quickly and produces methane gas, which is captured and sold at the city-owned landfill.
Charleston receives a royalty from the methane gas sold, Smith said.
Russell, a member of the Mountain Party, also sits on the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority board. She believes Smith's suggestion to eliminate newspaper from the recycling stream does have merit and that it should be explored.
"Will putting newspaper in a landfill generate more money than it does when it's sold for recycling?" Russell asked. "Those are the types of things that the committee has to look at."
However, Russell will oppose eliminating four items from the recycling stream, she said. This is because she is very hopeful the Solid Waste Authority can reach a deal with the private company.
"I would hate to change anything during this transition when it does look like we have a solution to this problem," she said.
Smith also believes West Virginia Recycling Services should pay the city for the items that are taken to the recycling center if the deal with the Solid Waste Authority is finalized. This revenue would help offset the city's cost for running the curbside program, he said.
Smith also said a deal could be worked out with a company to set up a truck at the city-owned landfill to collect recyclables. That company could then haul the recyclables away and eliminate any need for Charleston to haul materials to Beckley.
Smith pointed out that only three cities in the county are mandated to offer curbside recycling - Charleston, South Charleston and St. Albans. Dunbar voluntarily offers curbside recycling.
However, there is not a curbside-recycling program offered in the unincorporated portions of the county at all, and the items that would be eliminated from the city's recycling stream are already ending up in landfills.
"If it takes us a year of putting plastics in the landfill to get this deal done with the company (West Virginia Recycling Services) then that's fine," Smith said.
West Virginia Recycling Services is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Draw Enterprises.
Ed Talkington, a Democratic councilman who is chairman of the city's Environment and Recycling Committee, did not return numerous calls seeking comment.