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Commissioners hear recycling report, extend offer to medical director candidate

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

 Pitt County’s recycling program is undergoing changes to meet China’s increasingly stringent demands for accepting recyclables from the United States.

John Coward, Eastern Carolina Vocational Center’s operations manager, outlined the steps his organization is taking during Monday’s Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The board also voted 8-1 to offer a $234,000 package to hire a new medical director.

Coward said while there are a lot of challenges involving recycling operations nationwide, ECVC, which is primarily an organization that helps employ people with disabilities so they can attain a higher quality of life, see those challenges as opportunities.

Pitt County has one of the the state’s highest recycling rates, Coward said. The county provides 72 percent to 74 percent of materials recycled at ECVC, he said. The county also surpasses many other counties in the nation.

“Some of the main challenges that lie before us have nothing to do with Pitt County, they have nothing to do with ECVC,” Coward said. “The challenges we are facing now is a lot of exports not being able to be exported overseas.”

The recycling market has gotten smaller in recent years because China is accepting less material from the United States due to of larger amounts of contaminants — items that don’t belong with the materials being recycled, Coward said.

“A plastic bag is considered a contaminant,” Coward said. “It is items that shouldn’t be put in your recycling bin.” Another problem is carpeting and fabrics being mixed with plastics.

At one time the United States had an average of 5 percent to 8 percent contaminants in recent years it increased to 35 percent, Coward said. A nationwide survey indicates the increase is partly because more communities are using automated trucks and cycling bins with lids, when prevent operators from removing contaminants from the stream.

Where at one time Pitt County was receiving $125 a ton for mixed paper, a combination of small cardboard, newspaper, magazines and cereal boxes, most recently it had to pay $15 a ton to get items recycled.

“We have to make some tough choices and yet recycle,” Coward said. “Quality is going to be the driving key. Quality is the only thing that is going to move materials.”

Pitt County is improving its quality by slowing down its recycling line, opting to process 400 tons of materials daily as opposed to the previous rate of 900 tons, he said, making it easier for staff to remove contaminants

This has allowed PCVC to remain on the list of organizations that can sell recyclables to China, he said.

Pitt County Solid Waste and Recycling, along with ECVC, the City of Greenville and the state are working together to create new educational materials to encourage residents to reduce cross contamination.

“We don’t want to be too fast and change the literature and then the market rebound,” said John Demary, Pitt County Solid Waste and Recycling director.

Medical director offer

The board ended its meeting with a closed session to discuss personnel. When the session ended the board reconvened, it voted 8-1 to offer the position of medical director to a candidate recommended by the Board of Health.

County Manager Scott Elliott declined to reveal the individual’s name until the offer was accepted. He also declined to say if the individual currently lives or works in Pitt County or is coming in from another community or state.

The offer included an annual salary of $227,122 plus an annual travel allowance of $7,000. The individual also will receive leave accrual at the five-year level.

Commissioner Lauren White cast the lone no vote.

“My no vote tonight is not in opposition to the candidate but to the amount of the salary,” White said. “When the average household in Pitt County makes $42,000 I just couldn’t give my vote to that large of amount of salary.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.