Beckley recycling center could be short-term solution to Kanawha recycling woes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many of Kanawha County's recyclable materials will be driven on test runs to a Beckley recycling center to determine if that could be a solution to the area's recycling crisis.Officials gathered in the county commission chambers Thursday to discuss ways to deal with the Slack Street recycling center's closure. During the meeting, Charleston officials reiterated that they would still pick up recyclables set out along city curbs.Charleston will set a garbage truck at the Slack Street center to deal with the municipally collected recyclables. The truck, which can haul about seven to eight tons of material, will then be taken to Beckley sometime next week, Charleston Public Works Director Gary Taylor said.The garbage truck will haul plastic and aluminum collected from city curbsides. Paper that is collected from Charleston residents will be stored in a Solid Waste Authority container at the Slack Street center.The Solid Waste Authority will haul the containers to Beckley the same day Charleston's garbage truck is sent, said Norm Steenstra, executive director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority.The containers and truck will only be hauling recyclables collected by Charleston refuse employees during regular pick up times through the week. Taylor said he hopes to send the trucks to the Raleigh County facility by Thursday."But if the truck fills up quick, then we'll have to send it to Beckley sooner," he said.This will allow officials to determine the exact cost of hauling recyclables to the Beckley facility, Steenstra said.Members of the general public will not be able to drop off items at the Slack Street center as of today, he said. But, Steenstra is hoping that the Solid Waste Authority can soon open a collection site at the old facility.Steenstra said 8,000 to 9,000 cars come through the recycling center every month. The public dropoff accounts for about 12 to 15 percent of the agency's recycling tonnage, he said.    South Charleston is also going to haul the recyclables picked up during municipal collection to the Beckley recycling facility, Mayor Frank Mullens said. But South Charleston will be making the trip Wednesday, Mullens said.Steenstra said the Beckley recycling center, which is operated by the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority, is a state-of-the-art facility that is underutilized.Dunbar will be holding onto its recyclables to see if they can be loaded into a truck being taken to Beckley by one of the larger cities, Mayor Jack Yeager said.Yeager said his city could help cover the cost of hauling the material to the Beckley facility when Dunbar loads recyclables on the trucks heading south.But not all of the cities that offer curbside recycling will take their materials to Beckley.   
St. Albans will be taking its recyclables to a for-profit facility in Nitro, Mayor Dick Callaway said. Belle, which has offered curbside recycling for about 30 years, will send paper recyclables to the for-profit facility in Nitro and the aluminum cans collected will be taken to the town's Lions Club, Mayor Buck Chestnut said.
But taking the recyclables to Beckley is not the only short-term solution available to the cities and the solid waste authority. Steenstra said he is also looking at taking the recyclables to a for-profit recycler in Ironton, Ohio, and to the Nitro facility.But the Nitro facility, although close, does not have adequate sorting capabilities, Steenstra said.The Ironton recycler would provide transportation for the recyclables, but this would mean little or no income from recyclables sales for the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority, Steenstra said.Steenstra said he is running operations with a skeleton crew that is will be used to load and unload recyclables. But this means he will be losing about $40,000 a month.So the Solid Waste Authority would need to come up with a long-term solution to the closure of Slack Street center before the agency burns through all of its cash reserves.
Steenstra said he and others are looking for a permanent facility for a recycling center. Officials with the agency are looking at possibly purchasing the old Evans Lumber site in South Charleston for about $800,000, Steenstra said.The authority would have to invest another $400,000 to $600,000 into the building to turn it into a recycling center. The agency would have to build loading docks, upgrade the electrical system and move equipment currently onsite at the Slack Street center to the South Charleston building.The South Charleston site would have to be rezoned to allow the Solid Waste Authority to operate at that location, Steenstra said."It would have to go to city planning," Mullens said. "But I don't think that would be a problem." It would take about three to six months to get this site up and running, if the authority's board opts to go in this direction.Another site that could be utilized in along Washington Street West near the intersection with Dutch Hollow Road, Steenstra said. The owner of the 56-acre property would be willing to build a facility to accommodate the Solid Waste Authority, he said.But the owner is asking for about $12,000 a month in rent, which is about $2,000 to $3,000 more than what the Solid Waste Authority can afford, Steenstra said. But Steenstra said there might be some room for negotiations on the rent.This option would also take about six months to complete, Steenstra said.  "These are the two most viable options," he said.The mayors will gather again on March 19 at 2 p.m. in the commission chambers to discuss the issue again. This will allow them to compare the costs of taking the materials to Beckley versus taking them to Ironton or Nitro.       Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817.
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