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Solid Waste Authority coping with millions of empty bottles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While members of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority wrestle with what to do with mountains of leftover plastic water bottles, they're trying to figure out how to make sure the public keeps recycling once the bottles are gone.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority's governing board met Tuesday and talked about public interest in recycling the millions of water bottles imported after a chemical spill contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people earlier this month. Local officials estimate 10 million water bottles have been brought in to provide safe water for people affected by the Jan. 9 spill.

"The goal is to keep as many of those bottles from getting into the landfill as possible," said George Hunyadi, who runs the West Virginia Recycling Services recycling center on Slack Street in Charleston.

"Kudos go to the people," Hunyadi said. "My business as of last Wednesday was tripled."

Hunyadi said many Kanawha County residents are bringing their used water bottles to Slack Street on their own. In fact, so many people are dropping off bottles at the recycling center that Hunyadi is emptying a 30-yard recycling bin set up for plastic three times a day.

"I used to dump it twice a week," he said.

Local communities are also collecting water bottles. Hunyadi said he's seeing some trucks from Charleston and South Charleston as many as five times a day with loads of plastic water bottles.

Local officials have set up drop points at different locations around the county for residents to recycle their plastic bottles. Hunyadi said an arrangement was made with Waste Management to pick up the bottles on the waste haulers' regular cardboard recycling routes.

Local youth organizations, Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups are also heading recycling drives.

Greg Sayre, head of West Virginia Cashin Recyclables in Nitro and a former member of the Solid Waste Authority board, said West Virginia Cashin is sponsoring a bottle drive for local organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4H clubs through Feb. 15. Sayre said he will give participating organizations 5 cents for every pound of plastic bottles they bring to the Nitro recycling center.

He said the public is also welcome to bring their bottles to West Virginia Cashin. He said he'll give a nickel to the West Virginia University Foundation for every pound of bottles brought in by members of the public.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority are also working with the Kanawha County school board to set up recycling drop points at area schools. The trick will be finding someone to pick up the bottles once they're collected.

But members of the Solid Waste Authority board want to keep local residents interested in recycling after the water crisis is over.

Board chairman Rod Watkins said the sudden influx of water bottles has touched a nerve with the public. "I think this all comes down to the realization that 10 million water bottles are going to go into the landfill rather than be recycled," he said.

Members of the solid waste board would like to keep recycling drop-off centers open around the county if a cost-effective way can be found to collect the materials left there. Board members are also trying to figure out how to make recycling work for smaller communities and unincorporated parts of the county.

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


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