Official suggests countywide recycling plan
A state official thinks a countywide recycling program could be successful in Kanawha County, but the county commission president is concerned about costs.
Kanawha is one of six West Virginia counties with ordinances requiring countywide programs, said Mark Holstine, executive director of the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board.
The other counties are Harrison, Mason, Taylor, Jefferson and Berkeley.
"In my opinion, there are only six counties that have the ordinance because it's hard for these smaller, rural counties to run a countywide recycling program," he said.
He said an ordinance approved by Kanawha County voters in 1992 requires the county commission to implement a recycling plan.
"The ordinance has been on the books for some time," Holstine said. "But it's up to the commission to decide how they want to act on that ordinance."
The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority has been grappling with its recycling efforts since its century-old building on Slack Street was deemed unsafe several months ago. It has resumed collecting materials at the site but is hauling them elsewhere for processing.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said it's important for Kanawha residents to recycle. However, he isn't sure how a county-run program would work.
Carper wonders who would bear the cost. He said waste haulers likely would charge customers a fee to pick up recyclables.
"The state says this will work in Kanawha County, but how much money are they offering?" Carper asked. "None!"
Most counties offer some sort of recycling option for residents, Holstine said. Some have drop-off programs that allow residents to bring items to a centralized location.
"Harrison's program is very successful," he said. "They have a good cooperative relationship with the private waste haulers in the county."
Harrison County's ordinance was enacted in 1992.
Three private waste haulers offer curbside pickup in Harrison County, said Richard Barnett, executive director of the Harrison County Solid Waste Authority. The haulers pick up items left at the curb during regular trash pickup.
The Harrison County towns of Lumberport, Shinnston, Stonewood and Nutter Fort offer municipal trash pickup and also pick up recycling at the curb. Residents also may take recyclables to one of four drop-off sites.
"We've been extremely successful," Barnett said. "We have a lot of participation in the curbside recycling program."
In 2011, two of the county's three private waste haulers collected about 116 tons of plastic containers, 61tons of aluminum cans, 320 tons of newspaper and 1,302 tons of cardboard, according to information he provided.
Data for the third hauler wasn't available. Those figures also don't include the tonnage collected by municipalities.
The private waste haulers charge an extra fee only for collecting "bulky goods," which are typically items like appliances. The fee is about $1 per month.
Barnett doubts the county would have as much participation if it didn't require waste haulers to pick up recycling.
"Curbside pickup in the county makes it so convenient for people," he said. "We wouldn't have the participation we have now if you would take that away."
Berkeley County also runs a successful countywide recycling program. It's a bit different than Harrison's.
Berkeley's ordinance does not make it mandatory for residents or waste haulers to participate, said Clint Hogbin, chairman of the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority.
Martinsburg, the county seat, like other cities with a population of 10,000 or more, is required by state law to provide curbside recycling.
Residents can place items such as appliances at the street for the private waste hauler. The items are picked up for free. Those living outside Martinsburg must pay an extra $10 a month to have items such as glass, cans and plastic picked up, Hogbin said.
The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority operates three large drop-off facilities.
Last year, the Solid Waste Authority handled about 4,500 tons of recyclables, Hogbin said. Selling the items brought in about $100,000 for the agency during the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The agency's budget for the same period was about $225,000, which included about $78,000 from Berkeley County Council.
The remainder of the budget is made up of the agency's cut of tipping fees generated from the landfill.
The amount of recyclables handled by the agency has increased every year since 1995, Hogbin said. Berkeley County's ordinance was enacted in 1994.
Holstine said any successful program in Kanawha has to be a collaborative effort between the county, cities and waste haulers.
"But the most important part is that there has to be a plan in place," he said. "That plan has to be consistent."
For example, all of the cities in Kanawha should collect the same kinds of items as the waste haulers in the unincorporated areas, he said.
"That way if someone moves from Chesapeake to Dunbar, the recyclables being picked up will be the same," he said.
Carper said the issue would be closely examined.
While he wasn't sure the county could run its own program, "if something is done, it would have to start on a modest scale."
For example, the county could establish drop-off centers and collection points as an alternative to curbside pickup.