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Monongalia County Commission suspends Saturday recycling program in favor of partnering with Westover

It appears as if Monongalia County’s Saturday recycling program — which has been on hiatus since mid-March due to COVID-19 — is not coming back.

The takeaway from a Wednesday work session with County Litter Control Agent Tim Fitchett is that the county will focus on its partnership with the city of Westover, which began operating a daily drop site at the Westover City Building in November of 2014.

Four months later, the county began running a Saturday drive-up recycling program in the parking lot of the Hornbeck Road Walmart.

In 2019, 222 tons of recycling were collected on Saturdays and 408 tons were dropped at Westover.

According to information provided during the work session, the average cost of the Saturday program was $4,330.71 monthly paid to Republic Services, which charged $235 per trip to haul off fill containers. Had the program not paused in March, a $35/ton tipping fee would have been added to that cost.

Based on the last five weeks — the Westover site reopened on May 18 after its own COVID-19 shutdown — the cost of that site is about $1,433.60 per month.

The county budgeted $100,000 for recycling in the current fiscal year and has spent about $36,000 thus far due to the shutdowns.

Part of that money will be repurposed to allow a recycling employee to go from 36 to 40 hours weekly in order to further assist Fitchett with the Westover site. Fitchett also heads up the county’s dilapidated building program.

Commissioner Tom Bloom said the Saturday program is “just not realistic” given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation coupled with the difficulty in protecting volunteers — many of whom were WVU Iserve students — while handling other people’s recyclables and containers.

He went on to say that recycling programs across the country are on the chopping block due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 and China’s increased restrictions on what materials it will receive.

“We are streamlining the process county-wide while also cutting costs. We’re still able to run the recycling program, which a lot of other places … many cities are canceling programs,” Bloom said. “China has dropped 99.95% of all recycling taken, which has been a disaster.”

The Westover recycling site is open from 7 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

Bloom said the county may hold a handful of Saturday drop-offs each year, particularly around the holidays.

In other news, the commission certified the results of the June 9 primary election.

County Clerk Carye Blaney said counties were free to certify results anytime after 10 p.m. on June 23, per instructions from the West Virginia Secretary of State.