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Charleston recycling study recommends use of containers, review of service, waste rates

February 4, 2021

Charleston recycling study recommends use of containers, review of service, waste rates | A study of the city of Charleston's recycling program makes recommendations, including the use of standardized carts to replace recyclables in rather than bags. (WCHS)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS) — A study of Charleston's recycling program recommends standardized carts be given to residents for people to place recyclables in that could be collected with a hydraulic tipper and to avoid using bags. The study by MSW Consultants also suggested that the city do a full cost of service and rate study for its entire waste management system. Consultants said this would identify the full cost of current services, come up with an appropriate rate structure for basic services and offer "premium services at an incremental charge to those customers who need more than basic service." They said the city provides excellent service to its residents with city crews removing "virtually any materials from the curb that are set out." Collection crews routinely load piles of bagged materials, multiple containers, multiple bulky items, loose brush and yard waste materials. "The lack of reasonable set-out limits undermines the city's ability to provided a fair, standard basic service," the consultants said. "Studies in other communities with no set-out limits have shown that 20 to 30 percent of the residential customers over-use the service, which means that the remaining 70 to 80 percent of customers are subsidizing the system." The study recommended the city rebalance collection routes, standardize set-out limits for basic service and establish additional fees for residents who require additional services. Charleston currently hauls recyclables to Raleigh County - a 60-mile, one-way trip. The Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority is charging the city a $175 per ton recyclable processing fee. The consultants recommend that the city explore regional coordination that would involve the development of a local facility for recyclables. Other recommendations include a comprehensive recycling education and outreach strategy, so people know what is considered recyclable in the recycling program. The study notes that participation in recycling in Charleston is very low. In 2015, a field study by staff showed just 19.5 percent of households set out recyclables each week. Consultants said the city from 2015 to 2019 collected an average of 650 tons of curbside recyclables or just over 70 pounds per household. This is far below the national averages. Currently, the Charleston recycling program accepts mixed paper, including newspaper, magazines, office paper and boxboard; corrugated cardboard; aluminum and steel cans; PET (#1) plastics including water, soda and juice containers; and HDPE (#2) plastics including milk jugs, detergent bottles and shampoo bottles. Glass bottles and jars are not currently included.

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