BECKLEY - Southern West Virginia improved its recycling efforts over the years.
When the recycling plant opened nearly a decade ago, it generated 1,500 tons of recyclables yearly and now generates 2,500 tons yearly, according to Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority (RCSWA) Education Director Sherrie Hunter.
"We are very proud of the fact that our recyclables are going up," said Hunter.
National statistics show the average American produces about five pounds of trash a day -- and that trash usually includes recyclables. So the more people recycle, the less waste is sent to landfills.
RCSWA Executive Director James Allen said residents in southern West Virginia have embraced the recycling market. "When you embrace the recycling market, you are removing some finite materials that really do not [decompose] in the landfill," he said.
Allen attributed the increase in recycling to public education and awareness. RCSWA implemented a comprehensive school recycling program in Raleigh County back in 2001. It has grown to 37 participating schools and has diverted more than 3,700 tons of recyclables from the landfill.
The landfill receives as much as 150,000 tons of waste each year, so if people reduce their waste and recycle that number can decrease, according to Allen. "You've really got to protect the longevity of the landfill that you have now and the land that you have available for use," he explained.
Laws in recent years for regulating trash and recyclables impacted consumers and solid waste authorities. "We do have good waste regulations that are on the books," said Allen. "Some are tough to follow, but still on the other hand, for the overall betterment of our facility, we welcome to have our [Department of Environmental Protection] inspections in place."
But can more be done? Hunter believes there is always room for improvement. "I believe that we could do better but we're doing okay. We're doing okay for West Virginia," she said.
RCSWA is in the process of expanding its recycling plant by about 9,000 square feet to allow for more recyclables. Click here for more information about the plant and about recycling.