Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Republic recycling policy sparks confusion

Trash and recycling hauler Republic Services has some explaining to do.

That was the takeaway Thursday afternoon as representatives of Morgantown, Monongalia County and WVU met to discuss the rapidly changing rules when it comes to recycling and how they could potentially work together to reduce the amount of contamination getting thrown into the mix locally.

Before they can do that, however, the group agreed it needs Republic to explain the ground rules.

Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom said the county was recently told plastic bags and shredded paper are considered contamination.

Traci Knabenshue, director of sustainability for WVU, said both go into the university’s recycling bins and Republic has not raised it as an issue.

The problem is that all the local recycling ends up getting mixed together at Republic’s transfer station in the Morgantown Industrial Park.

“That’s where we have a major problem, because we have been told point blank, no bags. So if one of the three or four major groups is doing bags, that’s all going to be considered contaminated,” Bloom said, adding, “I can’t see doing recycling if they’re going to accept bags from you because it’s garbage from us. We’re losing money.”

Beginning in November 2014, the county partnered with the city of Westover to operate a recycling drop-off at the Westover city building.

In February 2015, the county began running a Saturday drop-off recycling program at the Hornbeck Road Walmart. Republic hauls off 30-foot containers for $235.

Up until this point, Republic Services has not charged a tipping fee for all this recycling — about 630 tons annually.

Starting April 1, a $35/ton tipping fee goes into effect.

The fee, coupled with the amount of contamination that ends up in the unmonitored Westover site, has the county rethinking its recycling program, which ultimately led to Thursday’s meeting.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m real worried. I’m concerned because I see what we’re doing in the county is not going in a positive direction anymore,” Bloom said, explaining he hoped the groups could work together to educate the public on how to avoid contamination in their recycling bins.

Knabenshue said she intends to seek clarification from Republic, as did Vanessa Reaves, who recently filled Morgantown’s part-time recycling manager position being funded through a $36,786 grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) program.

“If all of our community recycling is being co-mingled in the bay, then we’ve got a vested interest,” Knabenshue said. “And yes, the overlap between the city, the county and WVU as far as educating people about recycling is important.”

Reaves said the city is about to embark on its own Recycle Right education push thanks to the REAP grant funding.

Posters will be placed around town and fliers will be mailed out with upcoming trash bills spelling out exactly what can and can’t be tossed in the recycling.

The campaign will also involve volunteers physically checking the recycling bins of city residents and marking contaminated bins with “Oops” stickers.

“Bin checking will start in May and happen in three 8-week sprints,” she told The Dominion Post.

Both the city and WVU have trash and recycling contracts with Republic.

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