UPDATE 12/18/12 @ 1:40 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After a troubled year, the recycling center in Kanawha County is getting a new lease on life.
The center, which is located on Slack Street in Charleston, closed back in March because combustible dust and structural problems were found.
Tuesday, the Solid Waste Authority approved a lease with West Virginia Recycling. The company will take over the center and pay the authority $5.50 for every ton of recycling that is processed.
If West Virginia recycling breaks the term of the lease, the center and all the improvements made to the building will go back to the solid waste authority.
The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is searching for a new home but is still accepting steel cans, plastic bottles and cardboard.
The 100-year-old Slack Street building was deemed unsafe in March, causing area drop-off services to stop temporarily.
Recyclables are being sorted into dumpsters before they're hauled off and cashed in. However, it's only a temporary fix to what's become a recycling crisis.
"The only way we can really make any money and recover some of the losses that we're having right now is to get back in the business of actively marketing cardboard and bailed paper and bailed plastic," Norm Steenstra with the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority said.
One possibility for a new home is a warehouse in Sissonville near the NGK Spark Plug plant. The price tag is well over $250,000 and would require the county to go to the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board for a loan.
"My goal is still by this summer to be at a new site where we're back on our feet and not having to dip into our reserves," Steenstra said.
That plan has been met with words of caution by the state board, suggesting that materials be sorted before they're dropped off to help save money.
"The more you have to sort recyclables, the higher the cost is to the authority, so we're just trying to keep all that in mind as they plan forward," Mark Holstine with the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board said. "This is a hardship right now, but it's a grand opportunity for them."
"It's a little more difficult as far as sorting," recycler Eric Kirby said. "But it's still convenient to be able to come down and recycle here."
Workers are keeping track of where recyclers live to find out where a new home may be best suited.
"I've had a blast all morning just being out here with the people," worker James Jenkins said. "They're just excited that we're getting back going."
The Solid Waste Management Board hopes the county will build a new recycling program from the ground up.
On Monday, more than 50 cars rolled through the lot along Slack Street in Charleston.
The county is still looking and considering options as to where to set up shop or haul recyclables in the future.
Safety concerns shut down the center for the past few weeks. Management said its 100-year-old building was too much of a risk.
It was a necessary move, but it left many recyclers frustrated.
"I said 'Oh, that's like a step in the wrong direction," Marilyn McGeorge said.
"We started throwing more things away," Nerea Duquenoy said.
Now, management is looking for a new, permanent place - and in the meantime, bins placed outside will collect items. But people should pay closer attention to what they bring, because the center won't accept everything that it has in the past.
"We're not taking everything we used to take, like plastic bags," Norm Streenstra, director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority, said. "We're only taking number-one and number-two plastics. Milk jugs, basically, and water-bottle type plastics."
Workers will guide visitors through the recycling process, showing them where to deposit each item. But they won't be allowed to take glass, because managers say recycling it just isn't profitable anymore.
"Our job is to keep as much out of the landfill as possible," Streenstra said. "It breaks my heart, but most of our glass in Kanawha County is going to end up in a landfill."
But neighbors say they're doing what they can to cut down on waste - and they're grateful that the center is back open to help.
"We recycle as much as we can…pretty much every day," Duquenoy said.
"I think households can make a difference, but institutions can make a huge difference," McGeorge said.
The center will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. till noon. It will be closed Sunday and holidays.
Managers told WSAZ.com that the new pink bins are meant to promote breast cancer awareness. They said they hope to brighten up the center's appearance by adding some more pastel colors in the future.
According to a spokesperson with the Solid Waste Authority, the center will reopen on April 23 on Slack Street.
The center will now only collect two types of plastics, No. 1 and No. 2. That's the type of plastic used in pop bottles and milk cartons. Metal and aluminum cans will also be collected at the Charleston center.
Glass will not be collected.
Two people will be at the center to take the goods from the public.
The spokesperson says this is only a temporary solution to the center closing. The board is still looking for a permanent plan.
The board had to close its permanent center there earlier this month because the building was unsafe.
Since then, Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar and St. Albans have been sending their recycling to Beckley to be processed.
The board meets again next month to discuss a more permanent solution.
The cities of Charleston, South Charleston, St. Albans and Dunbar will continue curbside collection of residents' recyclables but will begin taking to places such as Nitro and Beckley.
People poured into the Slack Street location on the final day to drop off their trash, some worried about what's going to happen next.
"I put things out at my curb, but things pile up during the week. And, I just can't bring myself to throw away plastic or things that can be recycled," JoEllen Zacks, of Charleston said.
Longtime recycler Mary Boyd hopes a temporary solution is found soon, so that drop-off service can resume.
"If it's going to be a long time, I think it's going to be pretty bad," Boyd said.
The cities are trying some temporary plans to see if they’re viable.
South Charleston and Charleston plan to haul the cities’ recycling to Beckley about eight tons at a time.
Dunbar will stockpile its recycling and eventually send it to Beckley, working in conjunction with South Charleston and Charleston.
"Of course the problem is, you have to haul it down there,” Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said. “None of this is cost-effective."
St. Albans will take its recycling to a private facility in Nitro.
"One of the reasons you recycle plastic is so you're less dependent on oil, and yet here we are transporting it," Norm Steenstra, director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority said.
Steenstra said the county is also in discussions with a business in Ohio, which is interested in the county's recyclables. But, it's unclear how much money the county would receive in that option.
In the long-term, the authority is looking at a few options to pay for a new site, which would take several months to bring online.
Steenstra said It could cost anywhere from about $1.5 million to as much as $5 million.
He also said the authority is also looking at leasing a new site, which would cost $12,000 to $13,000 per month.
City and county leaders plan to get together again March 19 to see if these short-term plans are working and also to get a long-term plan in place.
Tuesday, recycling faithful came to deposit their trash for the last time in what could be a while.
"Well, I've not seen this many people here before here at one time, but I think people decided to do their last unload,” recycler Ross Allen said.
The center’s closing was announced after a county engineer and architect found the facility was unsafe.
“It's old and dangerous, literally the roof is falling in, as well as the floor is falling in,” said Norm Steenstra, director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority.
The closing of the center has also meant more than half the jobs there have been cut.
"We laid off seven or eight people yesterday, seven today. I told the people we laid off today. This could be a three-week layoff or a three- month layoff," Steenstra said.
It's also left the more than 8,000 people who recycle there every month scrambling.
"I'll have to find someone else to recycle with,” Charleston businessman Andy MacQueen said.
"The building has been decaying since we've been here. They knew it would come to this," recycler Diana Allen said.
However, a few others believe the service will find a new way to carry on.
“I’ll probably put it on the trash truck until then," Charleston resident Vince Rogers said.
Steenstra told WSAZ.com that on his birthday he will be forced to close doors he's worked hard for years to keep open.
"My wife said something to me today. There was a bunch of recycling in our kitchen, and she said well are we recycling anymore? I said, 'Yes, we are.' We are. I'm not sure what we're going to do with it yet, but we're recycling,” Steenstra said.
The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is actively looking for a new home for the recycling program. One possibility is a piece of property in South Charleston.
Steenstra is asking people to store their recycling in any available space.
Until a new facility is found or upgrades are made, there is a commercial recycling facility in Nitro, but glass, plastic and electronics are not yet considered disposable there. It’s called West Virginia Cash-in Recycling. The owner tells WSAZ.com the company is currently trying to work out a deal with the recycling program while it’s closed.
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