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Recycling task force studies programs in several states

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Recycling Task Force are looking at programs in other counties and other states for ideas that might help them revive the county's crippled recycling program.

Kanawha County's recycling program has been hobbled since March, when the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority shut down for safety reasons the 100-year-old building where they were sorting recyclable materials. County officials set up the task force last month to try to find a way to revive the struggling program.

At a regular meeting Wednesday, task force members looked at recycling programs in Raleigh County; Roanoke, Va.; Johnson City, Tenn. and Asheville, N.C., to see what lessons they might be able to learn.

Raleigh County Solid Waste director James Allen told task force members that Raleigh County made a decision in 2004 to build a state-of-the-art recycling facility at the county's landfill and to start a comprehensive education and publicity campaign to convince local residents to recycle. The program includes school group tours of the landfill and recycling center and competitions between schools to see who can recycle the most material.

But Allen warned that the program is extremely labor-intensive, and costs a lot of money to run. While Raleigh County is able to sell most of the recyclable materials it takes in, the program must still be sudsidized to the tune of more than $250,000 a year.

Allen said tipping fees at the landfill pay for the county's recycling program.

Mark Holstine, state solid waste director and a member of the task force, pointed out that Raleigh County's costs for recycling are double the state average, and said Kanawha County officials might not want to adopt such an aggressive approach.

But the task force also learned that recycling programs don't necessarily have to lose a lot of money. Roanoke's program utilizes the local rail system to transport materials to keep costs down, while Johnson City's program breaks even. Roanoke pays a private company $19 a ton to take its materials, but city and county officials expect that cost to drop to nothing when their contract is renewed.

Task Force members picked the three cities because their populations and the populations of their surrounding counties are roughly the same as Charleston and Kanawha County.

What all the programs had in common -- including Raleigh County -- is that they collect paper, plastic, metal and glass co-mingled in one container. Recycling officials have found that more people participate if they don't have to separate materials, and volume is an important factor in making recycling programs affordable.

But co-mingling also creates a dilemma for those who run the recycling centers, because they have to pay people to separate the materials, and buyers pay more for pre-sorted materials.

Board members include Holstine; CAMC recycling director Joe Tucker; Kanawha County Solid Waste Director Jeannie Gunter; former Kanawha County Solid Waste Director Norm Steenstra; Lois Gillenwater of Pray Construction Co.; Bob Pepper of NGK; Thrasher Engineering vice president Wayne Morgan; Deanna Sheets from the city of Charleston, Tim Gibson of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith; Cullen Naumoff and Mike Aiker from the Charleston Area Alliance and John Luoni and Colt Sandoro from the Kanawha County Commission.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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