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Editorial: Homework, communication needed on recycling

August 12, 2018

For people in Cabell County eager for more user-friendly recycling options, last week brought disappointment but also a reason for hope - at least for those who live within Huntington city limits.

The disappointment stemmed from a proposed county tax levy to support recycling that failed to muster enough backing from the Cabell County Commision to be placed on the November election ballot. It was the second time a referendum on a recycling levy had been proposed - the first time was two years ago - but not gone anywhere.

The cause for optimism, however, is that Huntington officials said a pilot program for curbside recycling in the city could be ready to begin sometime this fall in parts of the city.

The proposal before the Cabell County Commission was to have voters decide in November whether the county should levy a tax that would cost most households roughly $3 each year and generate a total of $300,000 annually, according to Mark Buchanan, director of the Cabell County Solid Waste Authority.

The proposal ran into trouble in part because one member of the three-member commission was opposed to using up most of the county’s remaining taxing authority. Then, another member said he had learned of a state law that raised questions about whether the county was going about establishing a tax-supported program properly. The county’s attorney hadn’t seen the law until the commission’s meeting on Thursday, but he said it appeared more steps would be needed before the county could put a tax proposal on the ballot. However, a state official said on Friday that the law does not preclude the commission from levying a tax. The law’s purpose was to enable citizens to demand a recycling program if officials refused to do so.

No doubt, supporters of expanded recycling are frustrated by what appears to be a lack of homework by county officials. As noted earlier, the proposal for a levy first came up two years ago. County officials have had ample time to research the issue and know whether they were on solid ground.

Sorting that out should be priority No. 1 if the county is to move forward on re-establishing a broader recycling program.

The second priority is for county and city officials to coordinate their efforts. The structure of a county recycling program could look much different if city residents will have a viable option in the coming years through a city of Huntington curbside recycling operation. If the city’s program proceeds, the county can focus on providing alternatives for county residents living outside Huntington.

Surveys have shown that a majority of residents support recycling. The public also demonstrated its willingness to recycle when the county, with some financial contributions from municipalities, provided recycling bins throughout the county. In 2016, nearly 1,000 tons of material were recycled, according to data provided by the Solid Waste Authority. That figure dropped to 607 tons in 2017 as recycling options dwindled, and this year the authority anticipates recycling about 333 tons of material.

That’s a significant step back. It’s not good for the environment. And in the city’s case, it likely means Huntington is paying more in landfill dumping fees because those hundreds of tons of materials are now being placed in the trash.

County officials must go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s required to finance a recycling program with taxpayers’ money. And the city should move forward to establish curbside recycling.

And they all need to talk to each other.

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