Wheeling Leaders Hear Recycling Pitch

Photo by Alec Berry Wheeling Public Works Director Russell Jebbia, right, speaks as 6th Ward Councilman Dave Palmer listens.

WHEELING — At a Friday meeting of the city’s Public Works Committee, officials reconsidered Wheeling’s own recycling program before hearing from a local business eager to secure a contract.

Public Works Director Russell Jebbia provided 3rd Ward Councilman Brian Wilson and others an overview of Wheeling’s existing program before reiterating, despite misinformation, that it still functions and does not direct waste material to a nearby landfill.

Afterward, Scott Ludolph, owner and operator of Scrappy Pappy’s Recycling, offered his company’s services to strengthen the city’s environmental efforts by expanding Wheeling’s limited coverage of accepted recyclables.

Jebbia, though, pointed out that Scrappy Pappy’s program would add at least an additional $96,000 to the city’s annual $245,000 recycling budget unless the city could generate enough material to offset the cost.

“I would like to work with him, but I can’t jeopardize the city by adding an extra cost,” he said.

Wheeling’s current program collects papers and aluminum cans. One truck staffed by two part-time employees gathers residents’ items on a biweekly basis and transports them to a company in Ohio. When started in 1993, Jebbia said the program saw nearly 3,000 tons of recyclables each year, but he said this total has since dwindled to less than 400 tons.

Despite the decline, the city is still mandated by the state of West Virginia to implement a recycling program. Jebbia said he believes the lack of participation by residents is due to a lack of awareness of the program.

Ludolph said people do not handle as much paper as they once did, and he said people likely hold onto aluminum to resell. Ludolph said plastics are now the prominent material people seek to repurpose, which the city will not accept.

He also said residents would prefer to put as little effort into the recycling process as possible. As it stands, Wheeling asks residents to separate their materials. Ludolph said his program would allow for mixed recyclables — which his company would later filter — simply set in clear plastic trash bags.

In a proposal, Ludolph outlines basic, recommended and advanced programs ranging from a monthly municipal fee of $8,000-$18,000. The pitch recommends passing the cost off to residents through a water or garbage surcharge. Wheeling residents already pay a $3 recycling fee, which is attached to their sanitation bill.

In Scrappy Pappy’s pitch, the city would deliver materials to the company’s Bow Street location. Ludolph said his business would then purchase it for $20 a ton.

“If they (residents) recycle more, you get more money back,” he said.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday asked if there would be a way to mandate participation by residents, to which City Manager Robert Herron said there is already a city ordinance which codifies this.

Mayor Glenn Elliott said he would be interested in incentivizing participation by adjusting residents’ sanitation bills favorably or not depending on their decision to recycle.

Sixth Ward Councilman Dave Palmer said the city should simply re-embrace its existing program with a publicity push. He said it should work to find a market for materials other than paper and aluminum cans, but until then, adhere to these two categories.

Palmer said he understands recycling is not about the city making money, but he said it should not be a means to lose it.

Scatterday said she admires Ludolph’s pitch, but she said she would prefer to compare it to the expenses of the city’s program before making a decision. She said it may be best to seek requests for proposals from other recycling vendors who may offer something unthought of or particularly beneficial.