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Slump In Economy Hits Recycling Ability

By Staff | Jan 8, 2009

The Tyler/Wetzel Recycling drop-off station has returned to the intersection of W.Va. 2 and 7, but they are no longer accepting plastic recyclables because a drop in the market has resulted in impossibly low prices, if the goods can be sold at all. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

For those local residents who have a resolution to live life more “green” in 2009, their task got a bit more difficult as Tyler/Wetzel Recycling stopped accepting plastic items as of Dec. 22.

Why, when it seems that more people are becoming environmentally conscious and learning to recycle, is this service being discontinued? For the very same reason that local plants are downsizing or closing and loans are harder to obtain. “It’s the economy, stupid,” to quote President Bill Clinton from some 16 years ago.

Shirley Mullett, coordinator for the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority that provides the recycling service locally, said, “China used to take everything. The price went way up, but after the economic drop, the recycling bottomed out. It’s not a local thing. It’s all over the world actually.”

Just how drastic is the change? In only about three month the price for plastic bottles to recycle went from 25 cents to two cents per pound. Not many businesses can endure a 90 percent decrease in revenue and Tyler/Wetzel Recycling is no different.

Of course the 90 percent decrease in revenue is assuming they can even sell the plastic recyclables at all. Tyler/Wetzel Recycling previously took plastic to St. Marys where the town does their own recycling to cut down on landfill fees since they provide their own garbage collection service. But now St. Marys does not have a buyer for plastic to recycle and they are currently diverting recycling into a building behind the correctional facility in St. Marys, hoping the demand will return.

“We don’t have a building to store stuff in. We can’t keep taking it if we can’t get it to move where we take it,” said Mullett. However, she said people could stockpile the goods themselves if they have available space. But no one knows how long the downturn in the market or the local moratorium on plastic may last.

Trey Granger of Earth911, a national environmental resource group, said the industry has always been cyclical, yet it has been growing for 30 years. He believes the invigorated interest in recycling should be able to outlast the current recycling problems.

While it may disturb local residents that they can no longer put plastic in the recycle bin, they can take some solace in the fact that Tyler/Wetzel Recycling still takes metal (tin and aluminum), glass, and newspapers. They may also be taking cardboard in the future.

That is more than some recycling operations are doing. In fact, the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is currently only taking paper until further notice. “The market is just not there anymore,” said Norm Steenstra, KCSWA director. He has had to cut 20 of his 24 employees and closed six of their drop-off stations.

Tyler/Wetzel Recycling still operates a drop-off station at the intersection of W.Va. 7 and 2. However, was removed for a time during the holidays and this transition period to allow the idea of the moratorium on plastic to be understood. “We were reluctant to put it out because many people don’t pay attention to the signs and don’t put them in the proper places. If it gets overwhelming, we’ll probably pull it back,” said Mullett.

However, in the midst of the transition the newspaper trailer remained to collect those recyclable castoffs.

“Right now we’re trying to just keep taking what we’re taking,” said Mullett. “You never know when they’re going to say, ‘You can’t take that either’.”

Tyler/Wetzel Recycling provides curbside recycling to New Martinsville, W.Va. 7 to the twin bridges, Rolling Acres, Beechwood, Middlebourne, Sistersville, Paden City, Davenport, Friendly, and roads that are between the towns.

Anyone wanting to receive a recycling box and begin collecting items for pick-up may call 455-5262 to have a box dropped off at their home.