UPDATE | More recycling options available for Charleston residents

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 11/6/19 @ 7:45 p.m.
The city of Charleston on Monday passed a bill to change the recycling law, all to help make it easier for people to recycle. Passing the bill means that residents can use bins for recycling instead of clear plastic bags.

On Monday night, Charleston City Council passed a bill that deals with the separation of recyclables from municipal solid waste.

"It doesn't have to be sophisticated," said Charleston Public Works Director Brent Webster. "As long as it is clearly marked, you can take a Magic Marker, you can use any kind of tape, as long as our workers know that it's clearly marked for recycling."

According to a 2016 study, the percentage of people who recycle in Charleston was at 19 percent, while the national average is around 30 to 35 percent. Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and Webster hope to see the level of recycling increased from the bill.

"We are not going to get to 30 or 35 percent overnight, but I would like to see incremental improvements and participation," Webster said.

The city already takes five loads of its recycling every two weeks to Raleigh County to be processed at Beckley Waste Paper. The recycling plant requires that cardboard and paper be dry, while giving no such restrictions for plastics and metals. This means those who want to recycle must make sure the bin has a cover in order to keep the indicated materials dry.

Webster hopes that with bringing awareness to recycling in Charleston comes good problems. Those include adding more trucks, more trips to Raleigh County and more workers. Another step in the initiative to increase recycling is to find solutions for businesses and schools to recycle and educating the people about the subject.

When Goodwin began as mayor, she ended the service of providing plastic bags to residents because of the cost to the city. Webster says it was not cost effective to continue providing plastic bags, and most cities don't. But this will be another solution for people so that they do not have to buy bags.

"Hopefully this will make it a little bit easier," Webster said. "Give the public more options so they'll have the bags, but they also can use any kind of bin now. Materials to be recycled can still be put in clear plastic bags but now."

With Charleston being far from main city hubs with enough industry and infrastructure to support large amounts of recycling, there is not room for a market to add glass and other types of plastics to be recycled. These options would require adding an expensive recycling system into the city.

The effort to recycle is the goal for this bill.

"It just takes a little effort to help clean up the environment or the neighborhood, and recycling is a good way to do that," said Kirsten Webster, a resident who recycles.

UPDATE 11/4/19 @ 11:25 p.m.
Charleston city leaders are on a mission to make recycling easier for residents.

On Monday night, City Council passed a bill that deals with the separation of recyclables from municipal solid waste. The ordinance "allows for recyclables to be placed into either a clear plastic bag or a container that is no larger than 48 gallons in volume, no heavier than 40 pounds when full and clearly marked as containing recyclables."

According to a release from the city, "paper and cardboard must be placed in either a clear bag or water-proof container. Recycling will continue curbside as part of citizens’ normal trash pickup."

“This bill will provide folks more options on how to recycle and make the guidelines for recycling more clear,” Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said in the release. “A 2015 study showed that just 19.5 percent of residents in the City of Charleston recycle and we want to increase that percentage by making recycling easier. This is a first step toward that goal.”

According to the city, these items can be recycled curbside: aluminum bi-metal, steel cans, newspaper, plastics 1 and 2 (examples include: water bottles, soft drink bottles, milk jugs and laundry detergent containers), boxboard, corrugated cardboard, office mix paper, magazines and junk mail. The city can reject wet paper or recyclable materials that are commingled with food or are not on the list of acceptable materials.

“The policy change gives residents options for placing recyclables at the curb for pickup without requiring the use of a clear plastic bag,” said Director of Public Works Brent Webster in the release. “Of course, folks are still permitted to use clear bags, which are available at many local retailers, but as long as a container is clearly marked as containing recyclables, our crews will be ready to pick it up.”

The city says for those who live in multi-family dwellings with four or more units that "an owner, landlord or agent may establish a collection system at each of their properties. They may create clearly-marked receptacles and give written instructions to occupants concerning the use and availability of the collection system."

The city of Charleston is planning to donate trash bags to residents who need them and then sell the remainder of the trash and recycling bags that used to be given out for free.

City officials say they plan to give the bags to people who need them the most but haven't yet determined what kind of criteria will need to be met for people to get them for free. It is also not clear right now how much the remainder of the bags will be sold for, but they are considering $7 or $8 per roll of 50 bags.

The bags were previously free for residents. The Goodwin administration stopped that program as a way to save $400,000 annually.

John Kennedy Bailey, the chairman of city's recycling committee, says the bags will be available to buy at the same locations where they were previously distributed.