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Recycling taskforce talks trash

By Staff | Dec 8, 2017

Vanessa McGuigan Chronicle Staff

The Shepherdstown Recycling taskforce committee held a public meeting to gather information and to allow residents and businesses to weigh in on the issue of recycling regarding cost and implications to owners and patrons alike. The committee includes Shane Broadwater, owner of the Green Pineapple on German Street; Taskforce Chairman Chris Stroech; Lori Robertson; and Elizabeth McGowen.

This process began six months ago when some residents and businesses desiring to reduce or possibly eliminate the use of plastic items within town limits, and despite heated debates on social media, most of the people present at the meeting were in favor of taking measures to eliminate use of these items.

Stroech read a prepared statement saying, “The recycling taskforce is tasked with evaluating/reviewing, and if deemed necessary, making recommendations to the Town Council on a position with respect to a policy ordinance on the reduction and/or elimination of the reduction and/or elimination of commercial use of Styrofoam, plastic bags and possibly plastic straws in the town.”

“As many of you are aware, the planet is being choked by non-biodegradable products; Styrofoam, plastic bags and straws can take 500 years to break down,” Stroech continued. “Once hot food or liquid is placed into Styrofoam, studies show that the heat from the food causes chemicals from the Styrofoam to leach into the food. Plastic bags and straws end up in the waterways and trees and kill wildlife.”

Stroech referred to Shepherdstown as always being on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly policies, citing the water treatment plant, biodegradable dog waste baggies, cigarette butt recycling and the soon-to-come return of glass recycling, when other municipalities no longer collect glass.

Deb Tucker, owner of Bistro 123 on German Street, and a Town Council member, spoke in favor of a ban of plastics and other products.

“I am so pleased that you all are undertaking this. It’s the right thing to do for the environment and the town,” Tucker said.

Her restaurant has already put many practices into place such as using biodegradable containers, and eliminating straws and take-out because it required the use of plastic forks and knives. She says she hasn’t heard any complaints from customers.

Tucker said her containers cost her a little more money, but it’s part of her brand and she factors that into her food costs.

Pam Berry, owner of the Sweet Shop, said she agreed with all of the comments and would like to come up with environmentally friendly practices, but that her business is different because she has a lot of carry out.

“I have tried many times to go with things that are more eco-friendly,” Berry said. “But it basically comes down all the time to cost and functionality, too. If you have a paper cup for hot coffee, you have to have a sleeve for the cup and itás still too hot sometimes. We’ve gone that way and have gone back to Styrofoam. I’ve calculated that there is about a nickle difference between a 12-ounce Styrofoam and a 12-ounce paper, but over a year that ends up costing me three or four thousand dollars. It’s these little pennies here and pennies there that add up to big numbers.” Berry continued, “There’s a difference between recyclable, compostable, biodegradable — if those things aren’t processed properly they’re all trash and they all end up in the same place. That’s my concern. I think this is really good, but I think you’re putting a burden on businesses without being able to measure any success. If you could quantify the costs and come up with incentives for businesses to do this.”

Attendees discussed other options for businesses such as an up-charge for a carry out container and charging for plastic bags like they do in other jurisdictions, or possibly producing a “Shepherdstown” bag, similar to those reusable bags available for purchase at grocery stores. These bags could be purchased at local retail establishments, although they do contain a plastic coating.

Some people expressed concern about Shepherd University continuing to use non-biodegradable items, but Mayor Auxer said he approached the university to discuss a change to their procedure.

Auxer reported that Shepherd understands the environmental impact of plastics and is willing to continue dialog about eliminating those products.

There are many facets to the problem — ones that don’t have simple solutions. For example, paper cups that are used by many establishments that sell coffee are easily recycled due to the plastic lining inside the cup. However, the lining has to be separated from the cup and therefore is rarely recycled. Many people who use these cups have been led to believe that, because they’re paper, environmentally friendly solutions are a no-brainer.

Stroech said the committee welcomes everyone’s input and that those wishing to ask questions or make comments, may contact him directly at cstroech@arnoldandbailey.com. More information can be found on the Facebook page, Shepherdstown Recycling. Future meetings will be posted at Town Hall and on their website, shepherdstown.us.