Recycling programs sustain relevancy

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Dennis Lechner of Jasper tossed cardboard into a bin at the Dubois County recycling center at 538 E. Schnellville Road in Jasper on Monday morning. Lechner said he uses the site usually once a month, depending on how much cardboard and other recyclables he has collected since the last drop-off.

Herald Staff Writer

While state legislators inquire about money being moved out of state recycling programs, those who work with recycling locally said they couldn’t imaging not having the programs.

“It’s still the right thing to do,” Jasper Street Commissioner Raymie Eckerle said. “We can’t be putting all this stuff in the landfill. We have to take care of our raw materials.”

Last month, state legislators and recycling advocates asked the state environmental chief why millions of dollars had been shifted out of recycling programs since the recession, saying the initiatives could have created thousands of jobs.

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, noted that $20 million in funds that lawmakers intended to promote recycling had been reverted to the state in recent years, and an $8 million balance was going unused.

“It seems like there’s an awful lot we could have been doing over that period of time with $20 million,” Stoops said during a meeting of the state environmental advisory council.

Tom Easterly, the state’s environmental commissioner, said much of the funding for recycling programs was suspended during the 2008 recession when Indiana, like other states, cut spending to offset lost revenue. Easterly also said several programs had become ineffective.

Those who collect recyclables on behalf of local municipalities said the fact that people still participate in the recycling programs shows that the community understands their importance.

The total amount of recycling in Jasper for 2012, 292 tons, was lower than 2011’s total of 313 tons. But the amount of trash collected in 2012, 1,636 tons, was also less that 2011’s total of 1,689 tons.
So far in September, 28,889 pounds in steel, aluminum, paper and cardboard have been collected.
“Our participation rate for recycling is still fairly high,” Eckerle said, “but some people recycle more than others. It’s not necessarily growing, but it is pretty consistent.”

The Dubois County recycling centers, located throughout the county, also have a lot of activity.
“People really participate,” said Highway Superintendent Steve Berg, whose office keeps tallies of the materials recycled. Although the talliesfluctuate each year, the overall participation is still heavy, he said.

In 2012, people recycled 1,653,900 pounds of newspapers, magazines, cardboard, plastic, steel, aluminium, glass and junk mail. In 2011, that total was 1,822,900 pounds
Tom Lueken, Ferdinand’s street and property superintendent, said that the receptacles placed in the town’s parks for plastic bottles and aluminum are heavily used.

“When we go by to pick them up, they are full,” he said. “At some places, people will empty the bottles from a receptacle, I guess to recycle them themselves.”

He said that the town doesn’t keep track of how much is collected. But, he said, it is enough that the department is putting out extra containers in the parks and near the ballfields.

The Huntingburg Street Department doesn’t keep track, either, of how much people bring to the recycling center, located across from the department at the east end of First Street. Street Superintendent Jason Stamm said he can tell the center is well used just by the traffic he sees at the center from his office window.

“I see at least six or seven cars going through there every day,” Stamm said. “When I look out, they are hauling all kinds of things there.”

Street department workers transfer the recyclables collected to one of the county recycling centers.

Carey Hamilton, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, told the state environmental advisory council last month that by not spending more on recycling, the state was squandering the opportunity to attract at least 20,000 jobs that could come not only from recycling services but also from industries that rely on recycled materials.

“There’s a real opportunity here, an economic opportunity,” he said.

Of the 6 million tons of trash Indiana residents throw away each year, 92 percent can be recycled, Hamilton said. He added that 77 manufacturers in the state use recycled materials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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