State looks to boost recycling rates in cities, towns

Heather Rousseau/The Herald
Devin Rottet of Jasper poured plastic bottles into a recycling bin at the Dubois County Recycling Center located on Schnellville Road in Jasper on Tuesday. “I take the time to do it because I am thinking about the future and I want to keep as much out of the landfill as possible,” Rottet said. “If not for other reasons, it is cheaper because it keeps more out of your trash bags and they make it really convenient,” he added.

Herald Staff Writer

State lawmakers have set a goal of eventually recycling at least half of the waste collected in Indiana. Last year, the City of Jasper recycled about 17 percent of its municipal waste. Dubois County’s recycling rate stood at 25 percent.  

Ferdinand recently launched a recycling program, and Huntingburg is weighing whether to implement a trash pickup program that may include recycling.

The local figures reflect how far communities will have to go to reach the state’s goal, which Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law.

The bill authored by state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw, originally called for Indiana to meet the 50 percent municipal-recycling goal by 2019. But Wolkins said lawmakers removed that deadline because it’s unclear what percentage of Indiana’s municipal waste is currently recycled.

Once the state’s current recycling rate for waste generated by cities, towns and counties is determined, Wolkins said lawmakers will likely set a date for reaching the 50 percent goal.

To meet the state’s benchmark, local officials will need to educate the public on the benefits of recycling. In Jasper, 1,618 tons of trash was disposed of last year. The city recycled 272 tons of waste.

“Recycling is the right thing to do,” said Raymie Eckerle, Jasper’s street commissioner. “We’ve got to protect our natural resources and reuse what we can because at some point we’re going to run out of natural resources. We just can’t keep throwing everything in the landfill.”

Eckerle would like more households to use the city’s recycling program, but “we can’t make them participate in the effort,” he said.

The city charges $1.50 for each bag of trash it collects, but there is no charge for recycling. The city collects aluminum, clear glass jars, newspaper, steel cans, cardboard boxes and No. 2 frosted plastic such as milk jugs.  

Clear soda bottles and other forms of No. 1 plastic are accepted at the county’s recycling sites. Last year, the county recycled 1.7 million pounds of newspaper, cardboard, plastic, steel, glass, magazines, aluminum and junk mail.

The county highway department oversees eight collection sites near Jasper, Huntingburg, Ireland, Ferdinand, Dubois, Birdseye, Haysville and Holland.

Dubois County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said education is the best way for the county to increase its recycling rate.

“There needs to be more knowledge out there for everybody to understand what can be recycled and where,” Berg said.

In Huntingburg, officials may roll out a curbside trash collection program that could include recycling. Questionnaires have been collected from residents, and “we’ll take a look at the surveys and see which way we want to approach this,” Mayor Denny Spinner said.

“Recycling will be an element in whatever we do moving forward,” he added. The city has a recycling drop-off site at the Huntingburg Street Department on First Street.

In Ferdinand, a curbside recycling service was launched in late December. The work is contracted through Monster Recycling in Jasper.

The company collects aluminum, cardboard, newspaper, steel cans, glass and all plastic items. The service is free for residents. Hailey Criswell, Monster Recycling’s office manager, said participation is growing.

“Every week it seems like there’s more and more,” she said.

Indiana Recycling Coalition Executive Director Carey Hamilton said the state’s recycling goal will create jobs and shift municipal waste away from Indiana’s landfills and into the hands of industries that can reuse materials such as glass and aluminum.

She said a study released last year by the Indianapolis-based coalition found that recycling 25 percent of what Hoosiers currently dispose of would create about 10,000 new in-state jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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