By Tina Alvey
Already recognized on a national level for the effectiveness of its recycling program, the Nicholas County Solid Waste Authority received more accolades Thursday, as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin presented the agency with a special award.
On hand to receive the award in Charleston were SWA executive director Larry Bradford and board members Chris Mondreas and Gary Brown.
The agency’s secretary and recycling coordinator, Beth Armstrong, expressed pride that the governor “acknowledged that (Nicholas County has) a superior program.”
Armstrong pointed out, “We are the only recycling program in West Virginia operating without any grant money. We’re 100 percent self-sustaining.”
Nicholas County also has the distinction of being the only county in the state with a countywide curbside recycling collection program, coupled with having one of the smallest landfills in West Virginia, Armstrong said.
Customers who sign up for the program must purchase recycling bags at either Summersville City Hall or the Nicholas County Landfill for 75 cents each, a fee that helps offset fuel costs. There is no charge for the collection, only the bags, Armstrong emphasized.
Bags are color-coded for each type of recyclable — metal and tin cans, plastics, paper products and electronics.
Recyclables are collected on a regular schedule throughout the week and then stored at the landfill until a truck container is completely full. That full load is then trucked to Raleigh County’s recycling facility, according to Armstrong.
“We work closely with the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority,” Armstrong said. “They’ve been such a help to us. Anything we need, they jump right in.”
Armstrong said, although the Nicholas County SWA adopted a recycling program in 2010 because it is mandated by state law, the program has yielded many benefits to the communities the agency serves.
“We want to save space in the landfill so it will last longer,” she said. “That will save the county money in the long run. We’re also saving our residents a lot of money on garbage bills when they choose to recycle; that is huge.
“And we’re helping the environment. In the two years this program has been in existence, we have kept 2 million pounds of materials out of the landfill by reducing, reusing and recycling.”
In conjunction with the recycling program, the Nicholas County SWA operates a special program for people age 62 and over, allowing the seniors to purchase bags for regular trash collection. That way, Armstrong explained, participating seniors usually end up paying less on a per-bag basis than they would with a flat monthly fee that is not predicated on the amount of trash hauled away.
In addition, the bag fees are structured in such a way that the regular trash bags cost more than recycling bags, thereby providing a monetary incentive for older customers to recycle.
The SWA has also found a way to involve the younger set in recycling, with all 16 of Nicholas County’s schools participating in a special program that includes monetary awards for their efforts to recycle.
“We work with the schools to educate children on how important recycling is to the environment,” Armstrong said. “The kids get really excited about recycling, especially when it’s a competition with prizes at stake.”
Last year, in keeping with an Olympics theme, the SWA awarded medals to the students in the winning schools — gold for first place, silver for second and bronze for third. In addition, the top three schools received cash prizes — $1,000 for first, $500 for second and $300 for third.
In August, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) awarded the Nicholas County SWA the honor of presenting its recycling program as a Web seminar, broadcast through SWANA’s eSession program.
In making the award, SWANA recognized Nicholas County’s recycling program for offering “a unique, rural experience.”
— E-mail: talvey@ register-herald.com