CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is inching toward privatizing the county's recycling program.
"Without public funding, we cannot build a facility," Solid Waste Authority board member Rod Watkins said at an emergency meeting of the board on Wednesday.
"To me, our only answer is working hand-in-hand with the private sector."
In March, the solid waste board voted to shut down the Solid Waste Authority's recycling sorting facility on Slack Street because of safety concerns in the 100-year-old building that houses the equipment. The board has since reopened Slack Street as a drop-off point for the public with reduced hours, but abandoning the facility's baling and sorting equipment has crippled efforts to collect and sell recyclable materials.
Outgoing Solid Waste Authority Director Norm Steenstra said revenues have been slashed by more than half since the initial closure. Cities that used to bring their recycling to Slack Street made other arrangements and are taking their materials to Nitro or Beckley, and the solid waste board recently fired half of the staff at Slack Street.
Steenstra himself is resigning effective Sept. 26.
With revenue slowing to a trickle and no significant funding from local or state government on the horizon to dig the authority out of its financial hole, board members said Wednesday they're running out of options.
"We're at Ground Zero," said board member Kasey Russell. "We have no plan.
"We have a blank sheet of paper, so let's make a plan."
Russell said she has already spoken with officials for garbage haulers Waste Management to see if they might be interested in picking up recyclables in unincorporated parts of the county. Waste Management officials have not wanted to pick up the materials in the past because they said there wasn't enough participation in recycling, but Russell said they might be interested now if enough county residents can be convinced to recycle to make it worth Waste Management's time and expense.