HANCOCK COUNTY — It really pains Dede Allender to see a plastic bottle or aluminum can poking out of the trash.
As director and educator for the Hancock County Solid Waste Management District, it’s her job to educate the public on ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle” to minimize the amount of waste going into landfills.
“I’ve been to the landfills. I’ve seen how quickly they fill up. Once something goes in there, it’s there forever,” said Allender. “It will never decompose. It will never break down, it just stays there in the ground, which is such a waste of the precious earth.”
Allender, who also does marketing for one of the county’s waste management companies, CGS Services, is passionate about recycling.
She uses her platforms to encourage local residents of all ages to incorporate the earth-friendly practice into their lives, especially on days like today — April 22 — the global observance of Earth Day.
According to EarthDay.org, the observance of Earth Day started in 1970 to shine the spotlight on recycling, conservation and other eco-friendly practices.
Allender uses the annual event to promote the same earth-friendly messages she delivers all year, as she educates the public on eco-friendly best practices by speaking at schools and fielding questions at the Hancock County Purdue Extension office.
Allyson Mitchell, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, is thankful for people like Allender who help spread the word about recycling at the local level.
Solid waste management districts are the go-to resource for recycling guidelines for individual communities throughout the state, she said.
“These are the people at the local level who educate the public about how to recycle and manage all types of waste materials in their community,” said Mitchell, noting the grassroots effort is essential.
“Recycling is a local activity that creates statewide and global impact,” she said.
While recycling may take a little more effort than simply tossing everything in the trash, Mitchell said it’s vital to get whole communities involved.
The practice is essential in more ways than one, she said. It not only conserves limited natural resources, but also supports the manufacturers that use those recycled materials and employ thousands of workers to make new products with them.
“Recyclables create 10 times more jobs per ton than materials sent to landfills or incinerators,” Mitchell said.
Recycling has taken a hard hit since 2018, when China enacted a policy banning the import of most recyclables from other countries. Before that, China had been processing nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for roughly 25 years.
The ban has taken recycling from a profitable practice to a cost-draining one for American waste management companies, which means fewer are willing to make as much effort to offer the service.
It’s had a ripple effect on how recyclables are processed around the world, right down to the increased number of plastic bottles and aluminum cans Allender sees in trash cans around Hancock County.
The educator said she’s noticed fewer families seem to be recycling over the past few years, based on feedback from students at local schools.
“I ask the kids how many of their parents recycle, and there’s only a handful of kids who raise their hands. Some other kids say their parents don’t want to pay for recycling, that it’s too expensive,” she said.
Allender has shifted her focus somewhat over the past couple of years, encouraging children to reduce and reuse as much throw-away materials as they possibly can.
“I encourage them to refill a plastic water bottle rather than buying new ones, and try to use as little plastic as you can,” she said.
She encourages kids to bring their lunch to school in reusable containers, rather than plastic bags, and points out that many containers that food comes in at the store can be reused to store leftovers.
Still, Allender is frustrated that there’s not a bigger push for recycling throughout the county.
“It just seems like we are so far behind so many other states and towns and municipalities, and I don’t know where to go with that,” she said.
“I get a lot of phone calls from new residents asking what they need to do to start recycling, because it was mandatory where they used to live. But I’ve been told that by making it mandatory some people get mad and don’t (sort things) properly, which creates a product that’s not usable, so it defeats the purpose,” she said.
Allender isn’t giving up, however, and will continue to educate community members of all ages on the best ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in an effort to shrink the amount of waste going into local landfills.
“A lot of people feel like it should be free, but you still have to pay for the trucks, drivers, the sorting… It’s a very expensive business, and so it does cost a lot to cover,” she said.
Not all local waste management companies offer curbside recycling pickup, but some do, she said. County residents also have the option of dropping recyclables off at local sorting stations, like the Mt. Comfort Transfer Station near Interstate 70 and Mt. Comfort Road.
The main thing is knowing how to clean and sort recyclables before dropping them off or setting them out for pickup. Thoroughly cleaning and drying the items are essential, she said.
“If you have that jelly jar and you don’t want to take the time to rinse it out, it’s better to throw it in the trash. Recyclers don’t want to deal with items that are dirty. They don’t have wash stations,” she said.
Mitchell said usually a quick rinse will do, except for empty peanut butter jars, which are best thrown in the trash.
The same goes for pizza boxes. Cardboard is a prime recyclable material, but there are limits. “If the bottom is covered in grease and cheese, it’s better to just throw it in the trash, because that’s where it’s going to end up anyway,” Allender said.
Any type of contamination — like liquids, dirt and yard waste — can prompt sorters at processing plants to toss a whole bin of recyclables, Mitchell said.
“But it is also true that ‘clean’ non-recyclable items — if too numerous — can cause the whole load to be trashed. The sorting facility has to make quick decisions on what is worth being sorted, and if too many ‘wrong’ items are in the mix, it may not be worth it for them to sort out,” she said.
To learn more about recycling do’s and don’ts, Allender suggests reaching out to the Hancock County Solid Waste Management district or individual waste management companies, or even looking up videos on YouTube to learn more.
“Videos detailing how multi-sorting stations work are not only helpful but somewhat fascinating. It’s quite a process,” she said.
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A collection event for disposable materials is taking place this Saturday, April 24, sponsored by the Hancock County Solid Waste Management District.
Saturday’s collection takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Covance, at 671 S. Meridian Road in Greenfield.
Another collection will take place Aug. 28 at the same time and place.
There’s a charge to dispose of most items. Credit card payments will be accepted this year.
Accepted items include:
–Electronic items: $5 fee per carload; $20 fee for projection screen TVs; $10 fee for all TVs 32″ and larger; $5 fee for all TV’s smaller than 32″; $5 fee for all computer monitors
–Household hazardous waste: $5 fee per carload at collection events
–Appliances containing Freon: (refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners): $20 fee per appliance. You do not need to remove Freon prior to event.
–Latex paint: $1 fee for quart size; $2 for gallons cans; $5 for 5-gallon buckets). If you are uncertain whether your paint is latex, read the clean-up instructions on the label. If it can be cleaned up with soap and water, it is latex paint. Oil-based paint is considered hazardous. However, if you mix it with sand or kitty litter and dry it to a solid state, you can throw these items out with your trash.
–Document shredding: $3 per box
–Tires: $4.50 for car tires off the rim; $5 for tires on the rim; $9 for semi-truck tires off the rim; $19 for semi-truck tires on the rim; $26.50 for tractor tires off the rim; $36.50 for tractor tires on the rim. The first two car tires off the rim are accepted at no charge.
–Pharmaceuticals: No fee. Permanent drop-off boxes for any unused prescription or over-the-counter medication are available at area police departments and CVS and Walgreen’s pharmacies.
–Garden pots: No fee. These cannot be recycled with the normal No. 1-7 plastics. In the past, the district has partnered with local nurseries to coordinate a garden pot recycling event. Check the district website for collection dates in April, May and June at participating garden centers.
–Unwanted shoes and expired non-perishable foods are also accepted.
Another collection will take place from 9 a.m. to noon May 22 in New Palestine, at a location to be determined.
For more information, visit recyclehancockcounty.com, call 317-462-7605 or follow the district on Facebook.
Source: Hancock County Solid Waste Management District
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Following is a list of resources regarding recycling efforts in Indiana:
Hancock County Solid Waste Management District
Dede Allender, director and educator
Indiana Recycling Coalition
Allyson Mitchell, executive director
To learn more about local recycling programs, contact the Hancock County Solid Waste Management District or the individual waste management companies throughout the county.