By Steve Novotney
Paper. Plastics. Metals. Textiles. Electronics. Composting. And glass – clear, brown, green, whatever.
Almost everything can be recycled.
But even though methods of recycling these products and many others have been established for decades, thousands of pounds of recyclable materials continue to be deposited in landfills throughout the Upper Ohio Valley.
But the topic of recycling is a popular one in Wheeling as many residents wish to improve the opportunities for local residents. Currently, the city of Wheeling partners with the Ohio County Solid Waste Authority to offer drop-off locations for cardboard, paper, metals, and plastics. The locations are St. Michael’s Church, the Bethlehem Ballfield, Oglebay Park near Site One, and in Clearview at the volunteer fire department.
Ohio County officials work with the city on two collections of used electronics per year.
“I think one of the things most people in Wheeling believe is that our recyclables just go to the dump, and that’s not true,” said Wheeling resident James Guy. “I know for a fact that it goes to recycling, and that the city makes an effort to do what they can.
“I’ll be honest; I thought the same thing for a while. I thought I was wasting my time with my bin. But then I actually asked the question to members of the council, and they did the work and found out the truth,” he said. “Granted, it’s not as much recycling as I would like, but I get the impression that they are doing what they can do.”
Scott Ludolph, owner and operator of Scrappy Pappy’s Recycling Center in East Wheeling, wants to do more. His presentation collected the most votes during ReInvent Wheeling’s “Show of Hands” event last week. Ludolph competed against three other presenters representing the Junior League of Wheeling, the Wheeling Brewing Company, and the Multicultural Festival.
More than 200 residents attended the event at the Capitol Ballroom despite frigid temperatures and snowy conditions.
“I think this should send a clear message to our community,” Ludolph said. “The people who really care about the future of this city are the people who attend these events, and the majority of those people obviously want more opportunities to recycle in Wheeling.
“The main message we wanted to send to the audience members was that recycling is an easy thing to do, and almost everything can be recycled,” he continued. “No matter what happened, it was a win-win situation for us because it gave us the chance to educate the people in attendance. You could tell by the looks on many faces that a lot of people were learning what really is possible.”
Scrappy Pappy’s has been a family owned and operated company for more than 28 years. The company is not affiliated with any landfill and is currently offering services to residents and businesses in several communities. Ludolph, for example, is now working with Avenue Eats on Washington Avenue, and the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center on 18th Street. The “Go Green Program,” he explained, utilizes a single-stream, no-separation method to recycle as much material as possible.
But has Wheeling Councilman Don Atkinson heard concerns about recycling from his Ward 5 constituents?
“No, I’ve heard nothing from anybody about recycling,” he said. “That’s not saying anything bad about anybody or about recycling. I just think it’s because the city has recycling, still. It’s mandated by the state, so we recycle, and it doesn’t cost anyone much the way it is today.
“And right now we have a company that comes and takes it at no cost, and that’s not the usual. Most cities have to pay for that service,” Atkinson said. “If we change what we are doing now it may end up costing the people money to do it, and we all know how it usually goes when the people have to pay more for something. The only cost to the public now is a couple of bucks and the cost of the bin, and there’s no profit made there.
“If people want to pay extra so we can be more green, then they have to let us know that’s what they want. Right now, as far as the citizens are concerned, I’ve heard nothing. For the city, the biggest issue is the cost, and our location doesn’t help because there’s really not a place that’s close enough to take it.”
Ludolph has made efforts in the past to work with the city of Wheeling on enhancing the community’s efforts, but an agreement has yet to be worked out.
“I have been in contact with the city since September, and I was told they have their own program,” Ludolph said. “Their program is minimal, in my opinion, and I think our program is exceptional. It is more expensive, but we collect much more, and we collect more often. I hope we can work together in the future.
“My goal now has been the same since I decided to make this push; I would like to make Wheeling the greenest city in West Virginia,” he said. “That’s why we are also looking to the future concerning composting, tires, carpet, and mattresses. We want to be the standard that all other cities around us want to achieve.”
Wheeling attorney Glenn Elliott said he believes the issue is generational.
“I think what we see here in Wheeling concerning recycling is a division that’s based on age,” he said. “We see a lot of the younger folks who are very pro-recycling, but the people who have lived here for a long time and are now in their 50s and 60s have not had that ingrained in their mindset.
“I lived in Washington, D.C., for a while, and recycling was a very big thing there, and when I moved home, it struck me as odd that we don’t recycle,” Elliott continued. “But the ‘Show of Hands’ crowd was really into it because the majority of those in attendance were in their 20s and 30s and in tune with recycling.”
But is recycling economically and fiscally efficient?
“I know I am sensitive to the costs on government for recycling, so I would think the private sector would have to pick up the slack,” Elliott said. “If the people want to do it, the people will have to pay to go beyond what the city does already. I know I would if it’s made available.”
David Seum’s efforts to initiate a better pace of recycling in Wheeling was established in October 2012 with the opening of his Sunset Recycling Consultants in East Wheeling, but the business closed its doors a little more than a year later.
Ludolph, though, insists it can work, and he offers an online survey on the topic:
“We’re in the recycling business whether we work with government or not,” he said. “I have done a lot of research and have discovered a lot of things. If people wish to go beyond what the city offers, they have that chance. It’s not free, but I’m not in this to get rich either. I believe we can make it work.”