Ask just about any citizen at the Recycling Center how long they have been recycling, why they do it and how they would feel if their recyclables weren’t being recycled, and you get remarkably similar answers.
“As long I’ve lived in Bloomington -- six years,” said Cathleen Paquet, while her friend Elizabeth Gibbs nodded in agreement.
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“I think it’s important for our planet, to prevent massive landfills,” said Dale Hartkemeyer, who recently moved to Bloomington from Michigan.
“I’m expecting that they will be turned back into something similar to what they were,” said Jane Harlan-Simmons. “… And if there’s a profit to be made that it will go to a good cause.”
Paquet summed up the feelings when she learned that those who are responsible for the Recycling Center’s operations don’t even know if glass, in particular, is actually being remanufactured and not landfilled.
“That’s really awful,” she said. “It’s really misleading for the public. I mean, so many people go to the effort of sorting their things and bringing it here.”
In fact, if Paquet or any other recycler were to ask the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District Board of Directors, or the district’s executive director or its operations director, none could tell them.
The tax-supported waste district collects recyclables at the Recycling Center on South Walnut Street and at three rural collection sites. Almost five dozen local businesses pay to have their recyclables collected through the district’s Green Business Network.
The district sends these materials to Hoosier Disposal & Recycling for processing and shipping.
City of Bloomington officials also send recyclables collected curbside in city neighborhoods to Hoosier. They, too, do not know if their recyclables are being recycled.
District Board Member Patrick Stoffers echoed district officials when he said at the board’s August meeting, "I have never gotten in my vehicle and followed a truck to its final destination."
Under Monroe County’s privatized recycling operation, the only people who do know are officials at Hoosier and its parent company, Republic Waste Services Inc., the nation’s third-largest waste hauler, behind Waste Management Inc. and Allied Waste Industries Inc.
According to the Dow Jones Factiva database, Republic is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale and has 13,000 employees nationwide. As of Dec. 31, 2007, the corporation had $4.47 billion in total assets.
Republic has five regional headquarters nationwide, according to its Web site. The Central Region, headquartered in Indianapolis, is composed of seven states from Wisconsin to Tennessee, including Indiana.
"It has become much more difficult to process ... because of the supply and demand for the glass products."
- Dan Gajus, Hoosier Disposal & Recycling
Hoosier, which operates a transfer station on State Road 37 just south of the Dillman Road intersection, is a Republic subsidiary that only services Monroe County, General Manager Dan Gajus said.
The garbage that city residents pay $2 a container to have picked up curbside goes to Hoosier.
Republic operates the Sycamore Ridge Landfill near Terre Haute.
While Hoosier is a subsidiary of a large corporation, Gajus said the majority of its management and workers are Bloomington residents.
“While the funding of this operation comes from the parent company,” he said, “the people who live and work here are the ones who make the decisions on the day-to-day operation.”
Paper goods, including corrugated cardboard, newsprint and office paper, have long been the recyclable commodities most in demand, Gajus said.
Hoosier sorts and bales paper products collected by the city and the district at the Bloomington transfer station and ships them directly to market.
“In some cases we ship to people like Columbia Paper,” Gajus said. “… Cardboard, we bale and ship straight to the mills.”
"I think it's important for our planet, to prevent massive landfills."
- Dale Hartkemeyer, Bloomington recycler
Hoosier Recycling Manager Greg Rood said glass, plastic and metals are delivered to the Hoosier facility in different mixtures and conditions.
The city’s curbside pickup program requires citizens to separate paper products from everything else, he said. The “comingled” plastic, metals and glass are shipped to Republic’s facility in Indianapolis for sorting and shipping.
“They’re four times larger,” he said of Republic’s “recyclery” in Indianapolis.
The district, on the other hand, requires citizens to separate plastic, metals and glass. Gajus said all but the glass is processed at the South 37 facility and shipped to market.
“It has become much more difficult to process,” Gajus said of glass, “… because of the supply and demand for the glass products.”
“The county’s glass is shipped to Indianapolis,” he said.
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.