Recycling adustments proving to be productive

LISBON – Eric Matthews is changing the approach to recycling within the solid waste district that serves Columbiana, Carroll and Harrison counties.

Matthews, who was promoted to director of operations for the district in April, met with Columbiana County commissioners this past week to apprise them of what he has been up to.

He said they have begun increasing the number of community collection events to supplement the countywide events held every year or two. “This time we’re trying to collaborate individually (with communities) to increase citizen participation,” Matthews told them.

In the past two months, collection events have been held in East Palestine, Salem, New Waterford, Hanoverton and Leetonia, as well as Perry, West, Middleton, Butler and Hanover townships. Collection events will be scheduled in the future for Liverpool Township, Salineville and Wellsville.

These events, where residents are encouraged to drop off larger items that would otherwise end up in a landfill, resulted in seven truckloads, eight box truckloads and a Dumpster full of electronics and thousands of tires, for a total of 80.2 tons of material. The cost to the district was $4,800.

Matthews sees this approach as more productive than just holding annual countywide collection events, although a countywide household hazardous waste event will still be held this year.

“Despite all the cleanup we do every year we must still have been missing the boat,” he said.

Even with these events and the 30 permanent sites in the county where citizens can dispose of newspaper, magazines, cardboard, bottles, plastics and cans, Matthews said estimated 10.3 percent of all waste is being recycled.

In related news, Matthews reported on the two part-time intern positions funded with money from county commissioners.

They are working on a feasibility study to establishing curbside pay-as-you-throw recycling in Salem and upgrading the district website to make it more user-friendly and informative.

The district also received a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to start an environmental education academy for local teachers, and they are working with local summer camps in the three counties to institute recycling programs.

“I told you when we made the transition we were ready to go,” Matthews said.

He also advised commissioners of the need for a policy establishing a cap on the number of unused sick and vacation days an employee is entitled to be paid for upon quitting or retirement. The district learned upon the resignation of Director Chris Jacobs that he was due about $25,000 in unused sick/vacation time.

“I was a little disturbed by that,” said Commissioner Jim Hoppel.

“We weren’t aware of it,” Matthews said.

Commissioner Mike Halleck said he is uncomfortable with the practice of being paid for unused sick days. “To me, not using sick days is a reward for good health … The thing has gotten out of control,” he said.

The majority of the district’s funding comes from a fee charged landfills that accept waste from haulers doing business in the three counties and money made from recycling.