PARKERSBURG - Local interest in recycling and "going green" has been increasing for nearly two decades since the city of Parkersburg initiated a curbside recycling program.
The last several years have seen a marked upturn in interest because the Obama administration had made green technology a keystone of its policies.
"In the mid-1990s, recycle tonnage was around 350 tons a year. In the last four years, the tonnage has increased to nearly 1,300 tons per year, a 45 percent increase," Naoma Buckley, supervisor of waste and recycling department for the city of Parkersburg, said. "With education, we hope that more city residents will realize the importance of recycling."
The annual Wood County Spring Cleanup at the end of April collected tons of materials for proper disposal and recycling. This year’s event was sponsored by DuPont Washington Works and was organized by the Wood County Solid Waste Authority. (Photo by Wayne Towner)
Parkersburg began its curbside recycling program in 1990 and it has grown over the years, with six routes per day throughout the city, she said. Anyone in the city who would like a free recycle basket delivered can call the office at 304-424-8570, Buckley said.
Besides the routes, dropoff sites are at the Parkersburg Fire Department substations on Blizzard Drive and at 13th and Liberty streets where residents can take plastic bottles and jugs, primarily those numbered 1 and 2.
The city's recycling program has grown steadily in participation since it was started, adding equipment and upgrades over the years, including a sorting facility which opened in 2001 on 24th Street, and also serves as a dropoff site.
Buckley said she has seen a noticeable increase in the last four years, with the continued and growing emphasis on green practices and programs. The city took in over 1,279 tons of recyclables in 2011, based on the fiscal year of July through June, and she expects an even larger amount for the 2012 year.
John Reed, director of the Wood County Solid Waste Authority, also has seen more interest in recycling and green technology and programs in the last several years.
"I think anytime you get leaders - whether it's the president or local leaders - that are interested in recycling and encouraging stuff, that does open up people's eyes and they get more enthused about it," he said.
As an example, Reed cited the solar-powered compacting trash cans in Bicentennial Park in downtown Parkersburg. Those have proven popular since their installation and paid for themselves in the first year through labor savings and other areas, he said.
Based on figures compiled by the authority through local haulers, Reed estimates Wood County recycles about 23 percent of all of its waste. The average nationally is 33 percent, while Seattle, Wash., recently exceeded 50 percent.
"So we feel like we've got areas that we need to go," he said.
Wood County has one landfill which serves multiple counties. A responsibility of the authority is to submit a plan every five years to the state on where a new landfill will be located after the existing facility reaches capacity, Reed said.
"We still think we're 25 years away, at least, on filling that landfill up. But if we could increase our recycling in Wood County from 23 percent to just 33 percent, then we could add another 10 to 15 years of life expectancy on that landfill," he said.
Reed said there has been a decrease in material taken to the landfill in the last five to 10 years from ongoing recycling efforts in the area over the past decade and more, he said. He believes that has also helped extend the life of the landfill.
For several years, the authority has organized events like the recent annual Wood County Spring Cleanup with the aim of collecting specific items for proper disposal or recycling.
Looking back at the 2011 cleanup, a total of 52 roll-offs (dumpster-trailers) were filled with trash, for 154.8 tons of material which were taken to the landfill or processed in the proper manner. That included 26.9 tons of scrap metal, 106,430 pounds of computers, 6,171 pounds of batteries, 33.7 tons of paint, 3.9 tons of tire rims and 8,027 tires.
Final figures are still being determined for this year's event, which was held the final weekend of April in south Parkersburg, but Reed said the event went very well, especially combined with earlier events this year which focused on electronics and paints.