Recycling Just Not A Priority

In deciding whether to accept job offers during my career, I’ve always taken into consideration the community in which I’d have to live. Is it a nice place? Are the schools good? Will my family be safe? How high are the taxes? Will I, as a reasonably progressive person, fit in?

My impression is that most people do the same kind of analysis.

But here’s the thing: There has to be a job offer before any of the above make a difference. Without it, I’m not going to move anywhere. Unless you’re independently wealthy, chances are you aren’t going to pull up stakes and move without knowing how you’ll pay the bills, either.

That’s why I’m not terribly concerned about Wheeling’s municipal recycling program. Is it a bad joke? Sure, in some ways. But ought it to be an economic development priority? Should taxpayers’ money that could be used for job creation, perhaps to reassure a potential new employer the sidewalks in front of his business will be passable, be plowed into an improved recycling program?

Recycling is in the news again, with some city officials saying it’s time to upgrade the program. “Cities in the 21st century are judged by their commitment to issues like recycling,” explained Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott.

He added that new city residents often are “disgusted” when they learn the relatively small quantity of material collected for recycling. Each month, about 1,500 tons of trash is collected for disposal in a landfill. At the same time, only about 19 tons of recyclables are picked up.

Here’s a question for the mayor: When officials of The Health Plan were thinking of moving their corporate headquarters to Wheeling, did they ask about recycling? Probably not. If they did, the answer wasn’t a dealbreaker.

And when people who work at The Health Plan’s HQ in St. Clairsville were told of the planned move and asked if they were willing to come along, how many replied, “Oh, no, I just can’t bring myself to work in Wheeling. Why, their recycling program is just unacceptable?”

Now, there are factors not related directly to business that are considered by some employers in deciding where to open up shop. To name just a few, employee safety, a pleasant environment and good schools come to mind. Given the choice between, say, Wheeling and Jersey City, N.J., the latter city would lose hands-down.

But making one’s community more appealing has to be a matter of priorities. A business district ought to be visually attractive. Infrastructure has to be adequate. Decent, affordable housing is important. A well-educated workforce is nice.

What happens to the plastic bottle after I’ve finished my water? Not so much.

Can Wheeling’s recycling program be improved at little or no additional expense? Perhaps. If so, go for it — but be honest about the cost and the results.

But here’s a tip: When trying to “sell” the city to business executives, don’t brag about recycling. They’ll wonder whether you have your priorities in order.

Myer can be reached at: