Paw Paw recycling cut, plastic in limbo
Financial worries at the Morgan County Solid Waste Authority will drive the group to cut its monthly recycling pickup in Paw Paw immediately and end discussions about a Great Cacapon collection stop in an effort to save operations at its main recycling center in Berkeley Springs.
Ending the recycling pickup in western Morgan County will save the group $5,200 per year.
Chairman Bennett Lentcz-ner made the announcement at the August 5 meeting of the Morgan County Commission, when county officials reconsidered the group’s request for operating funds.
The county had earlier denied the authority’s request for $32,000, but agreed last week to give $10,000 to the group in two payments. The second allocation will come in December, said the commissioners.
Last year, the county gave the group $20,000 toward their operations, which include not just recycling, but oversight over all solid waste disposal in the county.
“I hate to see you not picking up the remote sites,” said Commission President Brenda Hutchinson. She has been encouraging a Great Cacapon pickup stop for some time.
“Me, too,” Lentczner said. He noted that only 26 vehicles came to drop off recyclables in Paw Paw last month. An average of 1,500 vehicles visit the Berkeley Springs recycling center each month.
Plastic collection trashed?
Lentczner told the commissioners his group may also stop taking plastics at the recycling center if it continues to be a drain on their budget.
The Solid Waste Authority can spend upwards of $500 per month hauling trailer-loads of plastics to a consolidator in Winchester, and make no profit on selling the materials, he said.
Lentczner said the center has continued their plastics program, despite its cost, because of the environmental value of keeping the milk jugs, soda bottles and plastic packaging out of area landfills.
Scientists have no solid data, but estimate that it takes many lifetimes for plastic to fully break down, he said.
One reason plastics are costly to recycle is because the material must be sorted by type, according to the numbered mark on each item. Paying someone to sort milk jugs from peanut butter jars is expensive.
One way the Solid Waste Authority could continue to take plastics at the recycling center is if they can attract volunteers to handle the sorting work instead of paying an employee to do it, Lentczner said.
The consolidator in Winchester has also agreed to look at reducing his hauling fees, and may soon have a sorting machine that could make plastic recycling more profitable.
These changes could save the plastic collection in Morgan County, and board members of the Solid Waste Authority decided Monday to keep taking plastic bottles and packaging for the immediate future.
Word that the center might stop collecting plastic spread over the weekend, and workers at the center said lots of people were worried they might have to start throwing the containers and packaging into the garbage.
“It’s everywhere,” said one worker at the center. “It would be a shame to stop taking the stuff.”
While all the county’s recyclables generated $12,000 in revenue last year, it cost $10,000 to haul those trailers of goods to the consolidator who buys them.
A typical trailer load of cardboard contains up to nine tons of materials. A few years ago, the Solid Waste Authority could sell that cardboard for $65 per ton. Now, they get $15 per ton, said Lentczner. And that’s before they pay a hauler to transport the materials.
“That’s not a big profit margin,” said Lentczner. He noted that plastic and glass recycling don’t even pay for themselves.
As a quasi-governmental group, the Solid Waste Authority can’t do any fundraising, but contributions to cover their operations are tax deductible. Lentczner said the group is hopeful that it has found a few new grant opportunities that might keep local recycling programs intact.
The Charles Biggs Recycling Center is open three days a week, and takes recyclable metals, glass, plastic, cardboard and mixed paper from county residents.
Individuals or groups interested in supporting or volunteering at the recycling center can call the Solid Waste Authority at 304-258-8718.