Jefferson County program makes recycling easier

November 15, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

LEETOWN, W.Va. -- This is no county for old plastic bags.

"They jam up the machines," said Jim McGowen, board chairman of the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority and expert on recycling at the authority's recycling center and trash transfer station on Jefferson Orchard Road.

These days, McGowen and Roger Gambill, transfer station manager, are touting the success of a recycling process launched in the summer of 2008 that makes things easier for residents to go green, and helps local governments and trash haulers save time and money.

Most recycling programs require that everything -- glass bottles, newsprint, magazines, cardboard, aluminum, tin cans and plastics -- be separated.

"Now everything goes together. It's all commingled," McGowen said.

Under commingling, private and municipal haulers pick up recyclables from the curb and dump everything into a single truck bin, then take it to the transfer station. 


Before, recyclables had to be separated at the curb.

"It saves them time and money," McGowen said.

Residents dump recyclables into a huge bin at the center that compacts everything.

"They drive up to the recycling center, drop off the materials at no cost, then drive onto the scale with their trash," he said.

When full, the bin is hauled to the transfer station where it, along with recyclables brought in by private and municipal haulers, is taken to Waste Management's Recycle America facility in Elkridge, Md.

"Machines there separate everything," McGowen said.

From January through October this year, Gambill said, the center sent more than 13,000 tons of recyclables to the Elkridge facility.

In 2008, it cost $65 to send material to Elkridge. Today, because of a drastic drop in the recyclables market, it now costs the center $95 a ton. The Maryland facility is storing recyclables until the market rebounds, McGowen said.

"Right now, there's no profit in it. We do it as a service to the community," he said.

"We're trying to make it easier and more convenient so more people will start to recycle and save the landfills," Gambill said.

The transfer center recycled more than 37,000 tons of household trash in the first 10 months of this year.

Included were 476 tons of yard waste that were composted into 416 yards of mulch that residents can buy. The center takes in used car batteries and motor oil, along with appliances, including stoves and refrigerators.

Every day, an average of 180 tons of household trash is brought into the building to be compacted and loaded onto tractor-trailers for hauling to Waste Management landfills in Hedgesville, W.Va., Upton, Pa., or to a company landfill near Richmond, Va., Gambill said.

After the first of the year, electronic equipment, including used televisions, computers, fluorescent bulbs and electronic games, will be accepted. A certified technician removes heavy metal, fluorocarbons and other hazardous materials.

In 2007, Waste Management spent $2.5 million on the building housing the transfer station and on road improvements at the center. The building will be turned over to the authority after seven years.

Every second Monday of the month is "Free Day" for residents. On normal days, the cost to residents is $5 for every 300 pounds of trash.

So far this year, 260 tons of trash has been dropped off on "free days," Gambill said.

"We're just trying to make recycling and trash disposal as easy as possible," he said.

On the Web

Learn more about the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority at

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