2/5/2014 4:00 PM
by Rebecca Turco
BECKLEY - Waste disposal is a multimillion dollar industry affected by the supply of landfills and the demand of consumers.
"You take your trash out of your house for two reasons: your can is full or it smells," explained James Allen, executive director of the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority (RCSWA). "Once it leaves your house, you don't give a second thought of where it goes. But once it comes to the facility here, then we manage that waste in the best, proper and most efficient way to dispose of it."
RCSWA's landfill has been there for more than 40 years, starting as a 25 acre area and now encompasses more than 40 acres, according to Allen. It has a potential life of more than 90 years.
But in the grand scheme of things, 90 years is not that long. Allen said recycling can help with that, since recyclables take much longer to degrade. "You're going to be removing a large portion of your waste stream that's disposed in the landfill, thus letting the landfill last a lot longer in the communities," he explained.
There are regulations about where landfills can be constructed, so the solution is not as easy as building another one when it runs out of space. That issue has not come across yet in West Virginia, but it is happening in other states and forcing them to seek alternate disposal in other areas, according to Allen.
"Whenever you look at transporting waste across state lines, you're looking at barging or a truck and these costs can be tremendous. So those costs are naturally going to be handed back down to the consumer," he explained.
The landfill averages around 10,000 tons per month, according to Allen. So how do we lower that number to save air space? Director of Education Sherrie Hunter said three "R's" can help - reduce, reuse and recycle.
Hunter believes everyone can make a difference when they follow those steps. "You have people changing their mindset when they see somebody else doing the right thing."
Allen said since more and more locals are recycling, the landfill's potential life is prolonging. "We're starting to see a waste stream now that helps to decompose quicker," he explained.